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Contributing Author: Kirsten H. Pabst, NDAA Well-being Task Force Chair

Many organizations have jumped onto the wellness bandwagon and, to their credit, initiated “wellness” programs. Others have rolled out “well-being” programs. What is the difference? Are the terms interchangeable? Not really. Let us look at them.

Wellness is generally applicable to a person’s physical health. Well-being is broader than that. In addition to physical health, the term well-being also encompasses other significant areas of our lives including mental and emotional health, financial health, spiritual well-being, social well-being, and career fulfillment (source, see below.)

While wellness is the primary responsibility of the employee, well-being is best accomplished when employers provide adequate opportunity for well-being — a plausible work environment. When organizations offer well-being programs — and workers seize the opportunities therein — everyone benefits. Employers who offer comprehensive well-being programs report higher productivity, better results, and less adverse medical and emotional stress amongst workers (Id.)

Common Themes

In promoting the well-being of our larger prosecution family, we will be emphasizing the importance of addressing secondary trauma — through education, prevention, and response — but also incorporating resiliency tools to keep us thriving physically, mentally, socially, financially, professionally and spiritually. For our purposes, spirituality is defined outside of a religious context but rather a reference to an individual’s belief or connection to something greater than oneself.

You will see some common themes developing throughout this project:

  1. Stress adversity is an unavoidable reality in our world, but we can control our responses to such challenges.
  2. People can learn and practice resiliency skills to prevent destruction caused by secondary trauma and, in fact, use this stress as an impetus for personal and professional growth.
  3. Self-care is important, but it is not enough.
  4. Leaders must recognize their responsibility for employees’ well-being and provide sustainable work environments, teach resiliency skills, and promote professional and personal growth of employees.

We have come a long way in the past few years in recognizing that the status quo — working prosecution team members (literally) to death, addiction, and disease — is neither healthy nor sustainable. Our new Task Force is committed to offering tools to help all prosecution team members achieve physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual, and social well-being. We are similarly committed to assisting prosecution team leaders in providing the work environment to accomplish that.

Kirsten Pabst is the Chair of NDAA’s Well-being Task Force, serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, and is serving her second term as the elected prosecutor for Missoula County, Montana.


Reducing Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Trauma and Burnout, A Trauma-Sensitive Workbook, by William Steele, is a great resource for leaders of organizations to learn about implementing a sustainable work environment.

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The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) is the oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors in the country.

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