A day in the life of an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP)

There are three main aspects of the Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) role namely anaesthetics, surgery and post-anaesthetic care.

There are some overarching qualities that are necessary for any ODP. These include excellent communication skills including verbal, non-verbal and written. Treating patients with dignity and respect, maintaining confidentiality throughout.

A student nurse is injecting something into a patient. There is a pulse oximeter on the finger of the patient.

The anaesthetic ODP

If you are working in the role of anaesthetic practitioner your day will start by ensuring that the environment and all equipment is safe and adequately prepared to accept the patient. This will include checking medical equipment like anaesthetic machines and vital signs monitors as well as ensuring that all equipment is clean and safe to use. Communication with all members of the theatre team is vitally important to ensure the safety of the patient and the team. The anaesthetic practitioner will discuss the planned care of the patient with the anaesthetist and prepare all the airway management and monitoring equipment that is necessary. Often the anaesthetic ODP is the first person that the patient meets and it is important to establish a good rapport with them from the outset. Once they are in the anaesthetic room they will apply vital signs monitoring to the patient and then assist the anaesthetist whilst they administer the anaesthetic type of choice. Once the patient is anaesthetised the ODP will ensure the patient is safely positioned on the operating table and that they are kept warm and secure throughout.

Multiple surgeons are stood around an operating table. One is performing a medical procedure on the exposed stomach of a practice mannequin.

The scrub practitioner

The theatre environment and equipment must be checked and its safety ensured. The scrub practitioner will support the surgeon who is carrying out the operation. They will have to wash their hands in a methodical manner (scrub) and put on a gown and gloves. They will have to ensure the availability and sterility of all equipment and ensure that it is accounted for at all times.  Very often at this stage the patient is unconscious; therefore it is the scrub practitioners’ role to ensure that the patient remains safe throughout. This will include maintaining their dignity, ensuring confidentiality and treating them with respect. Surgery includes the role of the circulating practitioner. In this role the ODP will assist the Scrub ODP by passing any supplementary items as and when they are required by the surgeon. These items are passed in a way that maintains sterility and does not compromise patient care. At the end of the operation it is vitally important that a formal count of all instruments, swabs and needles is undertaken to ensure the safety of the patient.

A nurse is holding the hand of a patient. There is a pulse oximeter on the finger on the finger of the patient.

The recovery practitioner

The recovery room will be prepared in the morning to ensure that it is clean and safe to accept patients and that all equipment is available and working, this will include all necessary emergency equipment. The recovery room is the area that the majority of patients will stay in for a minimum of 20 minutes post-operatively. The anaesthetist will hand over the care of the patient to the recovery practitioner detailing the care of the patient until that point including what operation they have had, drugs used and observations intraoperatively. Whilst receiving the hand over the recovery ODP will be ensuring the patients airway is safe and applying vital signs monitoring. Once the patient is breathing adequately and has satisfactory vital signs, the ODP will commence their documentation. Any deviation from the norm must be recognised early and acted upon immediately. Prior to the patient leaving recovery a certain criteria must be met. Once the ODP is satisfied that this criteria are met then the patient is then returned to the ward. The ODP will give a detailed handover of care to the ward staff who will continue to care for the patient throughout the remainder of their hospital stay.