Traumatized Physicians

To provide relief to the suffering of others—be it physical, mental, or spiritual suffering—is one of the greatest privileges afforded a physician. Yet, frequent or prolonged exposure to this suffering is not without risk—the risk of being overwhelmed and consumed by the suffering of others. When this happens, the physician may become as traumatized as the patients he or she is caring for. This privilege of providing this care, and the possible risk, is part of the spectrum of the life of a physician. This entry briefly summarizes current thinking about the ways in which physicians may become traumatized by witnessing the suffering of their patients, what the possible negative and positive consequences of this witnessing are, how such effects may be measured, compassion fatigue ...

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