Operating Department Practitioner
Operating department practitioners (ODPs) help anaesthetists and surgeons, and care for patients, during operations. They prepare patients for surgery, check monitors and other equipment during operations, and support patients when they are recovering afterwards.
Video: - Anita: Operating Department Practitioner
As an Operating Department Practitioner, you will switch between helping the Surgeon and the Anaesthetist. You will work alongside Theatre Nurses and other healthcare staff. You will also work with the patient in the recovery stage, after the operation.
You will help to prepare the patient for surgery, for example, ensuring that the Surgeon has the correct medical records. You will also check that the right medication and equipment is available, and make sure the whole area is prepared properly. You will have to make sure you have the correct patient for the surgery.
In the anaesthetic stage of the operation, you will prepare a wide range of equipment and drugs, including anaesthetic machines, ventilators, drips and airway devices, which all ensure the safety of the patient during anaesthesia.
You will also work alongside the Anaesthetist to check the patient's condition, watching out for allergic reactions, breathing difficulties or heart problems. You will bring patients into the operating theatre and help to position them correctly on the operating table.
If you are helping the Surgeon, you will 'scrub up' with the rest of the team, putting on a surgical mask, sterile gown and gloves.
For surgery, you will have prepared all the instruments and equipment the Surgeon needs. It is essential that equipment is laid out correctly before an operation.
During the operation, you will pass instruments to the Surgeon and carefully remove soiled dressings and swabs, maintaining strict aseptic conditions to prevent infection. You will anticipate what the Surgeon will need; you will need to have the piece of equipment ready for them as quickly as possible.
After the operation, you check that all the items have been accounted for and collect any instruments to be sterilised.
You will help to monitor the effects of the anaesthetic, re-position the patient when drips are inserted and fetch equipment or blood.
You will also continue to care for patients after the operation. You will watch out for complications such as shock, blood loss, pain and breathing problems. You will also need to assess the patient, helping to ensure that they can be moved back to a ward.
You are also responsible for maintaining patients' records and controlling the stock of equipment.
While most Operating Department Practitioners are based in operating theatres, anaesthetic areas and recovery rooms, you can also work in many other areas, including accident and emergency departments, intensive care units and special care baby units.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become an Operating Department Practitioner, you'll need:
- excellent attention to detail and the ability to prepare meticulously for operations
- to react quickly, keep your concentration and be methodical, all while working under pressure in a rapidly changing environment
- excellent problem-solving and communication skills
- the ability to cope with distressing sights in the operating theatre and other areas, such as accident and emergency departments
- an interest in science, technology and health
- practical skills to work with small and delicate instruments
- a friendly, supportive personality to reassure patients and prepare them for surgery
Pay and Opportunities
NHS employees are paid on a rising scale within defined pay bands, according to their skills and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: Band 5 pay of £23,023 - £29,608
Hours of work
Operating Department Practitioners usually work 37 hours a week. You might have early starts, late finishes, nights, weekends, shift work and work on public holidays. Operating Department Practitioners might also have standby or on-call duties.
Where could I work?
Employers include the NHS and private hospitals, and the armed forces. Opportunities for Operating Department Practitioners occur in hospitals in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on the NHS Jobs website, on job boards (for example, for medical careers), and in local/national newspapers.
Entry Routes and Training
Entry routes and training
To become an Operating Department Practitioner, you usually need to complete a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) in operating department practice, leading to registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Courses usually take two years full-time to complete. Some part-time courses are available. The course is an equal mixture of academic and practical, clinical study. It includes hospital placements in specialist surgical areas.
Some universities now offer a BSc (Hons) degree in operating department practice. This also allows you to register with the HCPC.
A list of approved courses is available on the HCPC website.
An Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start. Take a look at our information article
In this role you may be required to complete a care certificate before starting work. Take a look at our information article
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
You could enter a senior post, for example, running a theatre unit. It is also possible to move into different areas of the work, for example, transplants or special care baby units. Progression could also be into a research or teaching post.
Previous experience or qualifications in healthcare or nursing will help you get into this career.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
Entry requirements for the Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) in operating department practice vary between the course providers.
The usual minimum entry requirements are:
- 5 GCSEs (A*- C or 9 - 4) including English and maths, but some universities also ask for science
- 2/3 A levels where biology might be specified
Equivalent qualifications can be acceptable - please check university/college websites carefully. Also, some providers might accept candidates without the specified qualifications, for example, provided they have relevant skills and life experience.
To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
To get financial support from the NHS, you need to meet certain criteria. If you meet the criteria and are on an approved course (leading to registration with the Health and Care Professions Council), you'll get a grant of £1,000 for each year of the course. You can also apply for a means-tested bursary of up to £4,395 each year (or more in London). For more information, see the NHS Business Services Authority website.
- 3% of people in occupations such as operating department practice work part-time.
- 7% have flexible hours.
- 3% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Professional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Address: Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 0845 3006184
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
NHS Business Services Authority