Compassion is a core message for NHS PMVA course

A great NHS PMVA course should have a balance of content which focusses on non-escalation, de-escalation topics along with physical alternatives (breakaway and restrictive interventions skills).  The importance of empathy, dignity and respect has to be a fundamental topic and with Verbal Defense and Influence (VDI), we have this aspect covered.   

The VDI approach to communication realises that the most important value to have in communicating with another human being is to treat them with dignity by showing them respect.   The ‘fuel’ driving how we treat another person must be that we treat them as we would like to be treated if we were in similar circumstances.

It is empathy which defuses anger, compassion which eases pain and common courtesy which defuses high-stress interactions, and a thorough Prevention and Management of Violence and Aggression (PMVA) or conflict resolution training course will address both the theoretical and the practical ways in which staff can “do” empathy, compassion and courtesy.

I am reminded of a piece in Fred Lee’s fantastic book “91/2 things you would do differently if Disney ran your hospital” as follows:

The first level of care is competence. We hire healthcare personnel for their competence. We continually develop their competence on the job as they learn to use new equipment and adapt to new protocols in medicine. Competence is the level at which clinical staff is hired and fired.

Our next level of care is courtesy. Courtesy is not usually in our criteria for hiring, but if the organization begins to focus on customer needs and wants, courtesy quickly becomes something that is required. We stress it in orientation. We call it service excellence. We write scripts to standardize courteous behaviors. These behaviors become part of our job descriptions and performance reviews. We might not fire anybody who lacks skills in courtesy, as we would with clinical incompetencies, but we do try to make it something that is required. And repeated examples of outright rudeness can be grounds for dismissal.

Finally there is the emotional level of caring. It is clearly beyond ordinary courtesy. Let’s call it compassion. It is not something we hire for. It is not something that can be required. We don’t fire people who don’t know how to express it. It appears to be an action that springs spontaneously from a person who is “inspired.”

A great NHS PMVA course will focus on attitudes and values which drive behaviour, and leave you inspired and motivated to go back to your position and allow your compassion to shine through.


Gerard O’Dea provides tailored NHS PMVA course programmes for hospital and healthcare services where people are treated with dignity and shown respect, even in their most difficult moments.  Combining respectful verbalisation skills with last-resort restraint alternatives for personal safety has been his specialty for over ten years as director of training for Dynamis

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