How to become an operating department practitioner

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) provide a high standard of perioperative care to patients. They work as part of a team 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:

  • 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 as an ODP

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.

You’ll study an approved pre-registration diploma over 2 years. In Scotland, the DipHE programme is delivered in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland.

Once you've completed the programme, you'll register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Find out more about the DipHE in Operating Department Practice.

The role of an ODP

As an ODP you’ll help and support patients having surgery or a surgical procedure, by managing and delivering a high level of care.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks could include:

  • carrying out physical examinations and clinical assessments
  • monitoring patients and responding to changes in their condition
  • making sure the correct equipment and medication is available for each procedure, including the anaesthetic machine, intravenous equipment, and devices that secure the patient's airway
  • making sure specialist equipment is available for specific procedures, including microscopes, endoscopes, and lasers
  • monitoring surgical instruments during each procedure
  • giving medications and injections
  • providing care and support until the patient is ready to be transferred to a ward
  • acting as an advocate for patients and their families
  • assessing risk to make sure patient safety is maintained
  • responding to emergency situations

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

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • collaboration
  • 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
  • midwives
  • radiologists

Working environment

You could work in:

  • operating theatres and recovery rooms, in adult and paediatric settings
  • day surgery units
  • endoscopy units
  • maternity units

Useful information

To work as an operating department practitioner in NHSScotland, 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. In your first year as a newly qualified ODP, you’ll get extra support and guidance through the Flying Start programme.

Your CPD activities could include attending:

  • courses
  • lectures
  • meetings
  • workshops
  • conferences
  • mentoring

There are 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:

Pre-registration Diploma in Operating Department Practice

The 2-year diploma is the route to become a qualified ODP.

Hannah, Trainee Operating Department Practitioner

Hannah is a trainee ODP. She's currently working towards her Diploma in Operating Department Practice.