Crying silently
Doctors and medics in the Vietnam War
in Working in a world of hurt
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The Vietnam nursing experience has received more attention than that of doctors and other men serving in a medical capacity. To redress this imbalance, this chapter considers a range of accounts by doctors and medics to explore the diverse range of their experiences during the Vietnam War. Some doctors worked under enormous mental and physical pressure in field hospitals that took in mass casualties; others worked in the Vietnamese community, part of the American ‘hearts and minds’ campaign. While on the surface it might appear that mass casualty surgery was the most psychologically difficult work, doctors accounts of treating Vietnamese civilians record how they bore an equal psychological burden of working in very poorly supplied facilities, treating a huge range of diseases, many of which were incurable or where treatment resulted in death from post- neglect. They also had to confront the consequences of their own military’s actions on civilians. For both doctors and medics, these accounts show that they had difficulty finding resilience in a sense of achievement as their counterparts had done in the two world wars, since, on a personal level, they were unable to screen out the sense of the futility of their work.

Working in a world of hurt

Trauma and resilience in the narratives of medical personnel in warzones

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