Janette, Operating Department Practitioner, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Janette is an operating department practitioner (ODP) working in the trauma emergency department at a hospital. She decided to train to become and ODP after working as a healthcare support worker in operating theatres.

ODPs care for patients before, during, and after their surgical procedure.

Where did your NHS journey start?

I started my NHS journey as a healthcare support worker in the plastic surgery department at a hospital, where I worked for 18 months.

Why did you decide to become an operating department practitioner?

Working as a healthcare support worker in operating theatres gave me an insight into the challenging yet rewarding career of an ODP. I learned the skills and values required to work in perioperative care, particularly communication skills to support anxious patients.

I applied for the ODP post as I wanted to be more involved with the multidisciplinary team and the surgical procedures. I decided to join the ODP training course as my experiences as a healthcare support worker gave me skills which are transferable to the role of an ODP.

Describe a typical day in your role

My day as an anaesthetic practitioner starts by checking the anaesthetic machine within the anaesthetic room and operating theatre. I then prepare all the airway management and monitoring equipment and check that all the machinery is available and working. Finally, I check the stock levels of the various medicines required for the operation.

As an ODP, I am the first person to meet the patient. Once they are in the anaesthetic room, I will apply the vital sign monitoring equipment to the patient and then assist the anaesthetist while they are putting the patient to sleep. Once the patient is asleep, I will ensure that the patients are safe, comfortable and warm.

As a scrub practitioner, it is also part of my duties to assist and support the surgeon. I make sure all the equipment is available, sterile and accounted for throughout the procedure. At the end of the operation, I count all the instruments, swabs and sutures to ensure the patient’s safety.

What are the most important skills for an operating department practitioner?

As an ODP, it is very important to have an excellent verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Having good communicartion skills ensures the safety of the patients and the rest of the theatre team.

Is there anything about your role that you think people would be surprised about?

Most of the patients who come to the operating theatre are unwell and in pain. The problem is sorted during the surgical procedure, so the patient is more comfortable. You'd be surprised that you can see the difference right away. 

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing in my job is providing the highest standard of skilled care and supporting the patient through each phase of the operation. You work with highly-skilled and professional people and the teamwork is very satisfying too.

What advice would you give to others thinking about becoming an operating department practitioner?

ODPs are highly trained members of the surgical team who help in three main areas: anaesthetic, scrub, and recovery.

If you have good communication skills, are self-motivated and keen to develop both personally and professionally, then becoming an ODP might just be the career that you are looking for. It is a very challenging but rewarding job.

Visit the NHSScotland website to find out more about the ODP training programme.

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