Where the devil dances: A constructivist grounded theory of resilience in volunteer firefighters
The purpose of this programme of study was to construct a theory of resilience in volunteer firefighters, a population that, despite facing intermittent and at times intense work-related stressors, is underrepresented in the resilience literature. Using a constructivist grounded theory (CGT) perspective, the study engaged a purposive sample of 8 firefighters from a single volunteer fire rescue service (FRS) in Canada, conducted in-depth interviews, and analyzed the data using CGT methodologies. The findings offer unique insight into the resilience of firefighters and demonstrate that resilience in the volunteer FRS is multidimensional, complex, dynamic, and contextual. The CGT asserts that within a volunteer FRS there are a number of concepts that inter-relate to construct resilience: relationships, personal resources, meaning-making, leadership, culture, and knowledge. Recently some researchers have noted relationships between concepts such as social support, adaptive health strategies, etc. (see for example: Almedom et al., 2010), and others are recognizing cultural influences on resilience (see for example: Panter-Brick & Eggerman, 2012), however, there is a dearth of literature linking all of the components together within a theory of resilience in high-risk professions such as the FRS. As well, many of the extant theories/models are linear whereas this theory is multidimensional and more patently represents the complex nature of resilience in volunteer firefighters. The findings further offer concrete strategies for practical integration of resilience theory into policies and actions to mitigate risks and enhance resilience in high risk professions such as the FRS. The outcomes of this programme of work have implications for volunteer firefighters, but there are also more global implications for career firefighters and other emergency service, disaster and humanitarian aid workers, and any organization or business that responds to emergencies, humanitarian crises or disasters.