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Vic Compher and Rodney Whittenberg

“Portraits of Professional Caregivers: Their Passion, Their Pain”

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“It is sort of a hidden vulnerability and exposure that a very caring person has and sometimes very unwarily as they are reaching out and opening up their heart to the person they are taking care of. And it can have an impact and what we realize at this point in time is that it is normal. That it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you it simply means that you’re human and your own humanity may be touched. And it may be touched because you feel the pain and sorrow and grief that is present with you and your relationship with that client or patient that you’re working with. It may be touched because their experience is similar to something that has happened in your life… And if that happens, there should be no shame or stigma about that. The important thing is to be aware of when it may be happening and to reach out to one’s peers or supervisor or someone that you really trust that you can debrief and address what is touching you. When we just stuff it and try to act so objective and above it all, which is sometimes the professional aura that is fostered in some of our training we’re really fooling ourselves and it can mean that the grief or suffering or trauma may affect the quality of our practice and it may affect the quality of our lives in various ways.”

Vic Compher &
Rodney Whittenberg

In this episode our guests discuss their documentary film exploring the work of professional caregivers, and what they have learned about the caregivers’ unique joys and stressors. They want to raise public consciousness of the nature of caregivers’ work, the situations of their clients, and the impact of this work on those who provide care and service to people in trying situations. They explore options for caregiver self-care and address organizational structures that provide crucial peer support to help manage the stress experienced by professional caregivers.

Vic Compher, LCSW, producer, director, and educator, began his “encore career” in filmmaking about 12 years ago. Some of his projects include “CAREgivers,” “Treasures of the Elders,” “Peace of the Elders,” and “I Cannot Be Silent.” All of his documentaries are story-driven, dramatic, personal accounts of real people’s lives. His films have addressed progressive and creative aging, war and peacemaking, and intergenerational sharing and legacies. Vic has worked in child and family services, geriatric counseling, and hospice services in Philadelphia for over 30 years. He has discovered and witnessed firsthand the “passion and the pain” that dedicated, empathic, professional caregivers experience daily. For 15 years he has conducted workshops that have proven to be very helpful for these professional caregivers. This documentary has evolved out of one of the most popular of these workshops, called “When Trauma or Death Occurs on the Caseload – Ways of Supporting Staff and Promoting Learning.” Vic’s exploration of the subject of secondary trauma has made it increasingly clear that society in general has many unrealistic expectations of its professional caregivers – indeed a profound lack of awareness and knowledge about the human side of providing professional care.

Rodney Whittenberg, co-producer and composer, is founder of Melodyvision, where he works as a creative consultant by using his skills as a composer, song writer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer, filmmaker, and educator. He brings a fresh and unique perspective to each client and project, adding value that results in creative solutions to often complex problems. Rodney has composed music for over 34 films and TV shows, and countless dance performances. He’s the creator and host of the podcast Pre-Concert, an interview show where listeners meet and preview upcoming performances. Clients include PEW’s Philadelphia Music Project, Philadelphia’s Orchestra 2012, Montgomery County Community College, and Intercultural Journeys. Rodney’s work as a filmmaker centers around his passion for telling a story from start to finish in a creative way. Projects include HBO Family segments 30X30: Kid Flicks, WHYY Wider Horizon educational spots, and numerous music videos and short-form documentaries. He is co-producer of the feature-length documentary “Caregivers: Their Passion, Their Pain,” which was recently featured on Radio Times and written up in The Guardian. More info at

Interviewer: Susan Green, LCSW

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