Medicolegal death investigators (MDIs) experience highly stressful and emotional situations daily with what they see, hear, and document. The duties of an MDI dictate that they investigate death scenes, examine and take pictures of the deceased, collect relevant samples and evidence, interview family members, friends, and bystanders, prepare initial reports, and deliver information and personal effects to families, among many other tasks.
Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this project aims to increase knowledge about work-related stress, stress management, and overall mental health and well-being across individuals working in the field of Medicolegal Death Investigations (MDIs). This effort is being conducted in 2 phases: 1) a national survey of MDI professionals and 2) an impact study. In July 2021, we completed the Phase 1, which was a first survey of its kind to examine the breadth and frequency of exposure to stressful and traumatic events, and outcomes in this workforce. Our partners, the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI) and The International Association of Coroners & Medical Examiners (IACME) were instrumental in assisting us with reaching as many MDIs across the United States as possible. The project team began developing Phase 2 in August 2021, which includes an impact study to collect daily self-report measures and biometric data from MDIs over a 12-week period to learn more about the types of activities that impact stress among MDIs.
The critical information collected in this study will result in a comprehensive data set that will be used to inform MDIs and their employing organization of how to better understand and support health and wellness, improve organizational outcomes and personal wellbeing, and inform future programs and preventative training to reduce and alleviate work-related stressors.
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- April-July 2021: National Survey
- Fall 2021: Stress-Reduction Impact Study Development
- Early 2022: Stress-Reduction Impact Study Implementation
Dissemination or Upcoming Events
Exploring Workplace Stress Among Medicolegal Death Investigators and Law Enforcement Officers
This panel presentation focused on findings from RTI’s Understanding Work-Related Stress Among MDI Professionals: A National Survey project, as well as real-life experience from two MDI professionals. Additionally, law enforcement representatives shared their experience establishing trainings and programs to support officer health and wellness. This session was presented at RTI International’s 7th annual Policing Symposium held virtually on March 9-10, 2022.
Just Science Podcast Released October 22, 2021
In the first episode of our Workforce Resiliency season, Just Science sat down with Dr. Jennifer Rineer, a program manager and research psychologist in RTI International’s Center for Policing Research and Investigative Science, and Kelly Keyes, a research forensic scientist in RTI’s Center for Forensic Sciences, to discuss workforce resiliency among medicolegal death investigators. This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].
This survey effort is part of a project led by RTI International titled, Understanding Work-Related Stress among Medicolegal Death Professionals: A National Survey and Mixed-Methods Impact Study, and is funded by the National Institute of Justice (Grant 2019-MU-CX-0068).