Operating department practitioners (ODP's) work primarily in operating theatres. They work as part of a team with surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre nurses, caring for patients before, during and after surgery. They play an important role in making sure that every operation is as safe and effective as possible.
Each operation has three phases. During the first phase, the patient is given an anaesthetic by the anaesthetist. In this stage the ODP:
The second phase is the actual operation. The ODP in this phase:
When surgery is complete, the ODP:
ODP's are also involved in assessing and evaluating the anaesthetic, surgical and recovery phases of the operation.
ODP's usually work 37.5 hours a week. This includes working shifts to cover evenings and weekends. There may also be an on-call rota for emergencies. Overtime may sometimes be necessary. Part-time work is possible.
ODP's mainly work in sterile hospital areas in operating theatres, anaesthetic areas and recovery rooms. They may also work in other areas, such as intensive care units, accident and emergency, helicopter emergency medical services, maternity units, special care baby units, resuscitation teams, transplant teams, day surgery units and orthopaedic clinics. Working areas are clean and well lit, but may be warm or can be very cool. The job involves standing for long periods.
Specialist clothing, including scrubs, head coverings and special footwear, is provided by the hospital. During operations, ODP's wear masks, sterile gowns and gloves.
Entry-level salaries for ODP's in the National Health Service (NHS) can range from £17,316 to £20,818 a year.
Just over 9,350 ODP's are currently registered in the UK. The number has increased in recent years, but there is still a shortage. The NHS employs most ODP's Others work for private hospitals and for the Armed Forces. Temporary work is available through agencies. NHS Trusts also keep lists of trained ODP's ready to be called in for weekend or holiday cover and during major emergencies.
Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers. Technic, published by the College of Operating Department Practitioners (CODP), and the CODP website are other good sources of up-to-date vacancies. Jobs can also be found on the NHS websites www.jobs.nhs.uk and www.jobs.scot.nhs.uk, and medical recruitment agencies.
To become an ODP, candidates must:
Entry to DipHE courses is usually with a minimum of five GCSE's (A*-C), including maths, English and a science subject. However, many institutions also ask for A levels. Alternative qualifications may be acceptable, such as a health-related Level 2 NVQ combined with GCSE's or A levels. Candidates are advised to check exact entry requirements with individual course providers.
The Diploma in society, health and development (available in England) may be relevant for this area of work.
All ODP trainees have their backgrounds checked by the Criminal Records Bureau/Disclosure Scotland for working with children and vulnerable adults. On enrolment, applicants have a medical examination and an occupational health screening to confirm their fitness to practise.
DipHE in operating department practice courses are offered at universities and colleges throughout the UK. The HPC and CODP websites include details of approved courses, which are available on a two year, full-time basis or part-time for up to seven years.
NHS-funded places are available for eligible students on approved courses - tuition fees are paid in full and students receive financial support in the form of a bursary to help towards living expenses. Check with individual institutions to see if courses attract NHS financial support.
Courses combine theory with practical experience. Topics covered by the DipHE include:
Approximately 60% of the DipHE is spent completing clinical placements in operating theatres, accident and emergency departments and intensive care units.
Upon successful completion of the DipHE, trainees can apply to the Health Professions Council for registration. This is a requirement to practise in the UK as an ODP.
Keeping skills updated is another requirement. Employers may encourage working towards additional qualifications. Registered ODP's must commit to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) in order to maintain their registration.
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An ODP should:
With experience, progression to team leader or senior ODP, with responsibility for managing an operating theatre unit, is possible. There are also opportunities in research, education or training.
Although it is not a job requirement, it is possible for ODP's to build on their DipHE by studying for a degree in operating department practice.
It may be possible to work abroad.
Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP),
Daisy Ayris House, 6 Grove Park Court,
Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 4DP
Tel: 01423 508079
College of Operating Department Practitioners (CODP),
197-199 City Road, London EC1V 1JN
Tel: 0870 746 0984
Health Professions Council, Park House,
184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866
Skills for Health, 2nd Floor,
Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 922 1155
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.