Introduction

Stress, Trauma, and Burnout in Forensic Scientists

Stress, Trauma, and Burnout in Forensic Scientists

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This webinar originally occurred on March 28, 2023
Duration: 1 hour

Overview

The world of forensic science and death investigation is always unpredictable and demanding. Large caseloads, hazardous materials, traumatic evidence, and other complexities related to the job can have a direct effect on staff. Individuals working in this field are continually faced with an incredible amount of grief, sadness, pressure, and stress. This webinar will present a comprehensive literature review as well as the preliminary results from a cross-discipline, cross-sectional study examining the prevalence of vicarious trauma and burnout from more than 500 forensic practitioner respondents. Additionally, the need for stress and trauma awareness training and a structured peer support system will be discussed as a valuable endeavor for any organization whose employees are faced with sensitive, challenging, and traumatic events or information every day. 

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will understand the differences between vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion fatigue.
  2. Attendees will learn to recognize the signs and understand the impact of stress, trauma, and burnout.
  3. Attendees will hear about tools to support employee wellness.

Presenters

  • Mandy Tinkey | Laboratory Director, Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner
  • Donia Slack | Senior Director, Department of Justice Strategic Account Executive, RTI International

Vicarious Trauma, Compassion Fatigue and Burnout: Recognition, Realizations and the Need for Peer Support and Personal Wellness

The field of forensic science and death investigation is unpredictable, volatile, and demanding. Increased caseloads, hazardous evidence, increased analysis times and deadlines, and family interactions have a direct effect on the staff. Individuals working in this field are continually faced with an incredible amount of grief, sadness, pressure, and stress. Individuals may have trouble coping with the stress experienced in this profession and vicarious trauma resulting from exposure to distressing reports and cases is not uncommon. Having to evaluate the best and most probative evidence for analysis by exposure to the intimate details of each case is a routine occurrence and over time has an adverse impact on the mental fitness of those responsible for the task. Routine exposure to trauma, whether direct or indirect, takes a toll on the lives of those involved. Recognizing the need for awareness training and a structured peer support system is a valuable endeavor for any organization whose employees face sensitive, challenging, and traumatic events or information on a daily basis. Employee involvement in structured training and continuing education helps support those who may struggle with or want assistance managing the stressors in this field. 

Presenter

  • Mandy Tinkey | Laboratory Director, Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner

Stress and Trauma in Forensic Scientists: Review of the Literature and Trends from a Cross-sectional Study

Studies have been performed on the prevalence of secondary traumatic stress (STS), vicarious trauma (VT), and burnout in psychologists, first responders, and police officers, but there are limited studies examining the prevalence of these stressors experienced by forensic scientists. Anecdotally, the field understands that forensic scientists are under immense pressure to ensure turnaround times are met and evidence is handled with unbiased integrity, all while trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. However, the pressures of the job may be impacting practitioners in more ways than imagined. In this webinar, a review of literature will be presented and preliminary results from a cross-discipline cross-sectional study on more than 500 forensic practitioners examining the prevalence of vicarious trauma and burnout will be discussed. Forensic practitioners’ perception of their ability to perform their job duties will also be presented along with recommendations for future studies to better support this important criminal justice stakeholder. 

Presenter

  • Donia Slack | Senior Director, Department of Justice Strategic Account Executive, RTI International


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 ForensicCOE@rti.org with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.


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