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How to become an Operating Department Practitioner

operating department practitioner careers

What does a Operating Department Practitioner do?

Operating department practitioners (ODPs), formerly known as operating department assistants (ODAs), care for theatre patients before, during and after surgery. They prepare the surgical environment and equipment such as drugs, drips, instruments, dressings and swabs. They prepare monitoring equipment and specialist equipment for specific procedures. They also look after records and stock control, ensuring stocks of items such as drugs and other single or multiple use items are ordered and rotated properly.

ODPs work as part of the anaesthetic team, surgical team or recovery team, caring for and ensuring the safety of patients during surgery and post-operatively. They also provide the surgical team with items required during the procedure, often called 'circulating duties'.

ODPs may work in other clinical areas, such as accident and emergency, intensive care, and pain clinics, and may also be members of the resuscitation team.

What's the working environment like working as a Operating Department Practitioner?

ODPs work 37.5 hours a week on a shift system covering evenings, nights and weekends. Overtime and on-call duty is common in order to deal with emergencies. Part-time work may be possible.

The work is mainly under sterile conditions in operating theatres, anaesthetic areas and recovery rooms. These areas are clean and light but can be hot. Surgical clothing and masks must be worn.

The work can be stressful and is physically demanding, with lots of lifting and standing for long periods.

What does it take to become a Operating Department Practitioner?

As an operating department practitioner, you should:

  • have manual dexterity
  • enjoy being a member of a busy specialist team
  • have common sense, be reliable and have a friendly, reassuring personality
  • not be squeamish or easily upset by unpleasant sights
  • be strong, with plenty of stamina
  • be able to learn quickly, act calmly and maintain concentration
  • have an adaptable and flexible approach to work
  • be an efficient and effective communicator.

Operating Department Practitioner Career Opportunities

Most ODPs are employed by NHS trusts and private hospitals around the UK. The armed forces also offer positions. Temporary work is available through agencies.

There are opportunities for promotion to team leader or senior ODP and to take on responsibility for theatre management. Some move into education and training.

Other opportunities exist overseas, particular in the Netherlands and the Middle East.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Operating Department Practitioner that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

NHS Careers
PO Box 376
BS99 3EY
Tel: 0845 606 0655

Health Professions Council
Park House
184 Kennington Park Road
SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866

The Association of Operating Department Practitioners
PO Box 1304
Tel: 0870 746 0984

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  • The thumb has a special section, separate from the area that controls the fingers, reserved for it in the brain.

Courses to help you become a Operating Department Practitioner