This first episode of the “Workforce Resiliency” season of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview 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, who discuss workforce resiliency among medicolegal death investigators (MDIs).
Preparatory comments for the interview note that MDIs experience consistent exposure to stress and traumatic events in their jobs; however, research is limited on the daily pressures they experience. Dr. Rineer, one of the interviewees in this podcast, led an NIJ-funded study that surveyed 900 MDIs to obtain more information on the causes of stress they experience. The goal was to develop better interventions for mitigating identified stressors. The current interview consists of a discussion of the responsibilities of MDIs and the difficulty of retaining staff, along with survey findings on MDIs’ work-related stress. Both Rineer and Keyes are members of a research team that will conduct a second phase of the research on stress-related needs and services. This phase of the research will develop a stress-reduction mobile app for MDIs. Following the app’s development, it will be made available free for all MDIs. The logistics and findings of the initial survey of MDIs exposed work-related stress due to on-call responsibilities that bring unpredictability to work hours and disruption to adequate sleep. The app will collect data on heart-rate variability and sleep, as well as sources of stress, such as interactions with the family of the deceased, which MDIs consider a major source of stress.