Vaidehi Mujumdar

Vaidehi Mujumdar is an aspiring physician interested in the social determinants of health and narrative medicine. She graduated from Dartmouth College with a double major in anthropology and biology. She is Indian-born American, an amateur ethnographer, and a current fellow at HealthCare Chaplaincy Network in NYC. She can be found attempting to tweet @veemuj and writing at the cross-sections of women's health and communities of color at Brown Girl Magazine.

The Cost of Caring: At What Point Do Doctors Face Compassion Fatigue?

I would often feel that I was living in an altered state where I was mentally and physically tired. Sometimes I felt as if I had nothing to give. It got to the point where I would feel physically sick before the appointment and actual get nauseous. It almost felt as if I were the one that was sick – as if I felt the tightness or throbbing in the exact same spot. [1]  There is a cost to caring – as psychologist and therapist Charles Figley points out – commonly called compassion fatigue.   1. What is Compassion Fatigue? The term compassion means “to suffer with” and those who find themselves as caregivers – professionally and/or personally often absorb the pain and trauma of others until they are exhausted spiritually, mentally, and physically. Clinically, compassion fatigue is referred to as the symptoms of secondary post-traumatic stress caused by caregiving. Colleen Breen, the author of Making Changes: A Guidebook for Managing Life’s Challenges, describes compassion fatigue as “soul sadness.” Patricia Smith, founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project warns that caring for others too much can hurt not matter your age or in what capacity you are providing care. A story in March 2012 on Good Morning America highlighted a staggering number of Americans who were suffering from compassion fatigue. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, more...

Second Traumas: How They Occur & What We Can Do to Prevent Them

I recently attended a conference where the keynote speaker, Dr. Linda Emanuel, discussed trauma, the different treatments and research that has been conducted in Western medicine on behalf of those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The part that caught my attention was how Emanuel characterized trauma. To paraphrase her words, when people tell you about trauma – a death, a physical assault, the end of a relationship/friendship, a shocking diagnosis, etc. – a second trauma occurs if that revelation is not properly witnessed. I found this idea of second trauma to be powerful because so often, trauma is characterized as a bleeding gunshot wound or deep mental distress, but trauma can be any sudden change in your life that affects you mentally, physically, or spiritually. I began questioning my own experiences and those of friends, family, and peers, especially the women in my life. I recently began volunteering as a rape crisis advocate at a city hospital, so a specific kind of trauma has been on my mind. When I interviewed for the program, I was asked why I wanted to work with sexual assault cases. My answer was simple: to help prevent second trauma. Most of us do not innately know how to deal with difficult situations. We learn along the way, but in that process we can hurt and do damage despite having the best intentions. Women of all...