ASCLD Emerging Issues: COVID-19 – Wellness and Operations

ASCLD Emerging Issues: COVID-19 – Wellness and Operations

This webinar originally occurred on March 29, 2021
Duration: 1 hour


COVID-19 has had an enormous effect on the workforce, and not just in the areas of operations and logistics. Workplace schedules have been completely rearranged, work-life balance has been turned on its head from telework, and reduced “in lab” hours have caused strain on an already stressed workforce. In this webinar, you will hear three experts in workplace wellness, particularly in forensic science. They discuss the various stresses in forensic laboratories, including issues like vicarious trauma, and present strategies that leaders can use to mitigate the negative effects of stress on their employees and improve the overall wellness of their lab.

Crime Lab Culture Momentum

The forensic crime lab culture has often been referred to as a ‘suck-it-up culture.’ There is a shared phenomenon that in order to perform work in this field, there needs to be a special compartment in the brain to deal with workplace and casework issues. However, these issues can materialize in employees as chronic stress, vicarious trauma, and burnout. Culture momentum can be shifted. Recognizing baseline organization wellness and when employees are more likely to be triggered can be a starting point for making shifts. 

Presenter: Amy Jeanguenat | Mindgen

Gap Assessment of Stress, Vicarious Trauma, and Resiliency in Forensic Science Professionals Utilizing the Vicarious Trauma Readiness Guide and the Professional Quality of Life Questionnaires 

Secondary trauma (ST) and burnout (BO) have been described since the 1980s and extensively studied in first responders, law enforcement, legal professionals, and human services providers, but there are few studies in forensic science professionals (FSPs).  In a Gap Assessment sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and supported by the ASCLD Trauma and Stress Work Group, researchers have administered a modified version of the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) questionnaire to FSPs in crime laboratories and medical examiner offices to determine levels of ST, BO, and compassion (job) satisfaction (CS)Additionally, they have administered a modified version of the Vicarious Trauma- Organizational Readiness Guide (VT-ORG), recently developed by the Office for Victims of Crime, to measure FSPs’ perceptions of their organizations’ efforts to address vicarious trauma and promote health and wellness.  

Results from 519 subjects indicated that field-based FSPs registered higher levels of ST compared to laboratory-based FSPs. Greater employee belief that their organizations were addressing issues of stress and trauma predicted lower levels of ST and BO and higher levels of CS.  These results indicate a need to strengthen organizational efforts to address vicarious trauma and promote health and wellness, particularly in FSPs with direct field-based activities. Use of the ProQOL and VT-ORG modified for forensic science professionals can guide public safety organizations in identifying levels of stress and fashioning interventions to promote resilience. 

Presenter: Dr. Andrew Levin | Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Strategies to Address Unique Challenges in Health and Wellness in the Forensic Laboratory

The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has approximately 750 employees working throughout five boroughs; it is the largest medical examiner's office in the country. Our experts investigate approximately 8,500 deaths per year in New York City, and test tens of thousands of items of evidence in our laboratories.  

Working in the forensic setting poses unique challenges in health and wellness; the OCME has strived to become a leader in employee wellness within forensic science by implementing various strategies to address these challenges. 

Presenter: Jamilla Dick-Quashie | Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City, NY

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Identify the types of stress associated with the forensic science workplace and their sources.
  2. Understand the effects of stress on the overall wellness of employees and its impact on workplace operations.
  3. Recognize the symptoms of stress and vicarious trauma on individuals in the workplace.
  4. Apply tools and techniques to identify sources of stress in their specific workplace.
  5. Implement strategies to effectively mitigate the effects of stress on employees.

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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