There is much quantitative information on the level and type of aggression towards hospital staff. Junior staff are said to be particularly at risk. In an attempt to add to our knowledge on this important subject a qualitative perspective was chosen to investigate the experiences of student psychiatric nurses when on clinical placements. This paper draws on interview data to highlight the importance significant others play for students before, during and following incidents of aggression. An ethnographic methodology was chosen as it is particularly suited to small-scale research when the research focus is not fully articulated. The validity of ethnographic evidence is discussed and suggestions made for the improvement of validity in further studies while remaining within an ethnographic perspective.