Operating department practitioner

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) provide a high standard of perioperative care to patients. They make sure procedures carried out in the operating theatre are safe and effective.

ODPs have an important role in the 3 phases of perioperative care:

  • Anaesthetic phase – assisting the patient before surgery, preparing specialist equipment and drugs
  • Surgical phase – working alongside the surgeon, providing the correct surgical instruments and materials
  • Recovery phase – assessing and monitoring the patient

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

Useful school subjects for operating department practitioners include:

  • Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Maths
  • English

Work placement

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.

Pre-registration Diploma in Operating Department Practice

To become an ODP, apply for an NHSScotland trainee ODP vacancy on our recruitment site.

When you’ve successfully applied to become a trainee, you’ll study an approved pre-registration diploma. This will allow you to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Find out more about the DipHE in Operating Department Practice.

The role

As an ODP, you'll prepare the operating theatre and equipment for the surgical team. You’ll also assess patients before they come into the surgical ward and care for them at each stage of their operation.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks could include:

  • checking the cleanliness of the operating theatre and making sure it is properly prepared
  • making sure equipment is available for each procedure
  • making sure specialist equipment is available for specific procedures
  • providing instruments to the surgical team
  • monitoring instruments during each procedure

You will also be expected to keep up-to-date accurate records.

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • communication
  • focus
  • organisation
  • teamwork
  • problem-solving

You’ll also need technical skills which you’ll learn during the pre-registration programme.

Who you’ll work with

You could be working with:

  • nurses
  • anaesthetists
  • surgeons
  • theatre support workers
  • doctors

Working environment

You could work in:

  • operating theatres and recovery rooms
  • emergency departments (ED)
  • intensive care units (ICU)
  • maternity units

Useful information

To work as an NHSScotland operating department practitioner, you’ll need to:

Learning and development

Once you’re qualified, you’ll undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain your registration with the HCPC. Your CPD activities could include attending:

  • courses
  • lectures
  • meetings
  • workshops
  • conferences

There will be lots of opportunities for progression. With experience, you could work in a variety of health fields.

You could also move into a senior role over time, such as:

  • surgical care practitioner
  • physician’s assistant

You could also take on managerial responsibility for the staffing and management of operating theatre suites.

There are other development opportunities for you in areas including:

  • education
  • training
  • research and development

Professional bodies

As an operating department practitioner, you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). You can also join the: