ASCLD Emerging Issues: Employee Wellness – Stress, Vicarious Trauma, and Resiliency for Forensic Science Professionals

ASCLD Emerging Issues: Employee Wellness – Stress, Vicarious Trauma, and Resiliency for Forensic Science Professionals

This webinar originally occurred on June 11, 2020
Duration: 1.5 hours


The phenomena of vicarious traumatization, compassion fatigue, and burnout have been described since the mid 1980's, roughly coinciding with the growth in mental health treatments focused on clients who were victims of trauma. More recent efforts have been focused on increasing resiliency in professionals confronting traumatic material and demanding work environments. A large literature has documented these issues in first responders, law enforcement, legal professionals, and human services providers, but there are few studies on forensic professionals.

At the 2018 ASCLD meeting, the plenary identified areas of particular stress for forensic professionals, including exposure to traumatic material during crime scene investigation and laboratory analysis, high workloads, expectations of error free work, and testimony. Available studies reveal significant levels of stress and vicarious trauma among forensic professionals surveyed but do not fully characterize these issues nor investigate the impact of resiliency efforts.

In response to the 2018 plenary, ASCLD formed a working group to explore these topics and collaborated with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to perform a gap assessment to better characterize stress and resiliency among forensic professionals, sponsored by NIJ. In an anonymous, online survey of seven laboratories and medical examiner offices, professionals were asked to describe job responsibilities and exposure to challenging material, and then rate stress levels and organizational responses.

This study utilized the Vicarious Trauma- Organizational Readiness Guide (VTORG), developed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and modified for forensic science professionals, to gather information about employee perceptions of their organization’s resiliency efforts. The second survey, the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL), gathered information on self-reported compassion fatigue, burnout, and job satisfaction.

In this webinar, the speakers presented results for each of the surveys as well as the relationships between stress, job responsibilities, and resiliency efforts. The findings were utilized to inform future directions in research, policy, and practice to better manage stress and increase resiliency among forensic professionals.

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. The levels of vicarious trauma, burnout, and job satisfaction reported by forensic professionals who participated in the survey
  2. Perceptions of organizational resiliency efforts reported by the survey participants
  3. The relationship of vicarious trauma, burnout, and job satisfaction to perceptions of resiliency efforts


  • Andrew Levin, MD | Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University
  • Jonathan McGrath, PhD | Senior Policy Analyst, Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice, Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences
  • Heidi Putney, MA | Masters’ degree in Clinical Psychology from Central Michigan University and is a 5th year doctoral student
  • Danielle Crimmins, MS | Doctoral candidate at Purdue University in the Computer and Information Technology Department

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.

Contact us at with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.

Related Content

A Landscape Study of Computed Tomography Scanners for Postmortem Applications

Date December 2023 Overview Advanced imaging technologies help medicolegal death investigation (MDI) personnel assess cause of death (COD) and manner of death (MOD). The Medical Examiner and Coroner (MEC) community utilize postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) to obtain imaging data to…

FLN-TWG: A Roadmap to Improve Research and Technology Transition in Forensic Science

← Back to FLN-TWG Main Page  Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG) The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group…

Data Exchange Practices of Medicolegal Death Investigation

Date December 2022 Overview The National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-in partnership with its Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) at RTI International and the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-convened a virtual Medicolegal Death…