Stress, burn-out and a high staff turn-over rate often characterise SAAP sector agencies, and have been well documented in the literature. This study seeks to learn from those who, on the contrary, appear to thrive in this environment. The focus is to explore the self-care strategies employed by workers who have been employed continuously in the SAAP sector for five years or longer and to develop from that a profile of resilience factors. Participants for the study were selected through a purposeful sampling technique to ensure that the sample was fully representative of the broad range of SAAP services, both in terms of geographic diversity and diversity of target group and service provision. A qualitative methodology was chosen, drawing on narrative theory, and using semistructured interviews to draw out themes.
Participants' accumulated wisdom and experience, often gained 'the hard way', offer valuable indicators to what can be done at an individual level and by managers and funders, to enhance the resilience of staff, thereby reducing the risks of stress, burn-out and a high attrition rate. The quality of connections proved to be a common denominator in the data. Good connections with agency systems and processes, with managers, with co-workers, with other agencies and with people who could help in a crisis, were vital indicators of worker resilience. However, good connections needed to be constantly cultivated through good management practices and policies.