Operating department practitioner

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) work with surgeons, anaesthetists and other healthcare professionals to provide a high standard of perioperative care to patients.

They help to 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:

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

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To become an operating department practitioner, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Maths
  • English

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.

College and university

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, but Highers are the usual route. This gives you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the entry qualifications you need.

To work as an operating department practitioner, you need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). You will need to study an approved pre-registration programme, which will take 2-3 years full-time.

Entry requirements vary depending on the university or other education providers. If you have previous healthcare experience, this may help your application.

Once you have graduated, you can apply for registration with the HCPC.

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

The role

As an operating department practitioner, you'd prepare the operating theatre and equipment for the surgical team. You'd also assess patients before they come into the surgical ward and care for them through each stage of their operation or procedure.

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 for people
  • communicating with people
  • active listening
  • planning
  • working in a team
  • problem-solving skills

You may need to have evidence of research ability and presentation skills.

Who you’ll work with

You could work with:

  • nurses
  • anaesthetises
  • surgeons
  • theatre support workers
  • doctors

Working environment

You will normally be based in operating theatres and recovery rooms. You could also work in an emergency department (ED), intensive care unit (ICU) or maternity unit.

Useful information

To work as an operating department practitioner in the NHS, you’ll need to:

Learning and development

Once you are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), you can also join the College of Operating Department Assistants (COPD) and the Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP).

As a qualified operating department practitioner, you would be expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). You must do this to maintain your registration with the HCPC. Your CPD activities could include attending courses or lectures, meetings and workshops, or conferences.

Career progression

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

You may also have the opportunity to move into a senior role over time. This could mean you will 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