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.
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Operating department practitioners switch between helping the surgeon and the anaesthetist. They work alongside theatre nurses and other healthcare staff. They also work with the patient in the recovery stage, after the operation.
They help to prepare the patient for surgery, for example, ensuring that the surgeon has the correct medical records. They also check that the right medication and equipment is available, and make sure the whole area is prepared properly. They have to make sure they have the correct patient for the surgery.
In the anaesthetic stage of the operation, ODPs 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.
They work alongside the anaesthetist to check the patient's condition, watching out for allergic reactions, breathing difficulties or heart problems. ODPs bring patients into the operating theatre and help to position them correctly on the operating table.
If they're helping the surgeon, the ODP will 'scrub up' with the rest of the team, putting on a surgical mask, sterile gown and gloves.
For surgery, the ODP 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, they pass instruments to the surgeon and carefully remove soiled dressings and swabs, maintaining strict aseptic conditions to prevent infection. ODPs anticipate what the surgeon will need: they have the piece of equipment ready for them as quickly as possible.
After the operation, they check that all the items have been accounted for and collect any instruments to be sterilised.
They help to monitor the effects of the anaesthetic, re-position the patient when drips are inserted and fetch equipment or blood.
ODPs continue to care for patients after the operation. They watch out for complications such as shock, blood loss, pain and breathing problems. The ODP will need to assess the patient, helping to ensure that they can be moved back to a ward.
ODPs are responsible for maintaining patients' records, and for controlling the stock of equipment.
While most ODPs are based in operating theatres, anaesthetic areas and recovery rooms, they 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 be 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.
In the NHS, operating department practitioners (ODPs) earn in the range of £21,176 - £27,625 a year, rising to £25,528 - £34,189 with experience. People in senior positions earn up to £40,157 a year.
Hours of work
ODPs usually work a basic 37-hour week. They might have early starts, late finishes, nights, weekends, shift work and work on public holidays. ODPs 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 ODPs 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.
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.
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 (some universities also ask for Science) and 2/3 A levels (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