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 11th, 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 event has been provided by the National Institute of Justice.

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