Vic Compher, director and co-producer of “Portraits of Professional Caregivers: Their Passion. Their Pain,” didn’t start out as a filmmaker. This documentary — his fourth — was inspired by his 20 years working in child protective services, and another 10 years working in hospice and clinical social work with older adults.
During that decade, he learned that many professional caregivers who work with traumatized people experience secondary trauma — also known as compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma. This includes firefighters, emergency medical crews, ER nurses, doctors, police, and others.
The first part of the documentary — which was co-produced by Rodney Whittenberg, who teaches filmmaking, and who also composed the music for this film — focuses on secondary trauma, or what caregivers experience when they respond to and care for people experiencing trauma.
“Secondary trauma, or compassion fatigue, is one more layer of the trauma experience,” says Compher, “a parallel process for many professional caregivers with symptoms that at times can somewhat resemble what their clients may be experiencing.