Operating Department Practitioners

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) are a type of health care provider involved with the overall planning and delivery of a patient's perioperative care. They are mainly employed in surgical operating departments but can be found in other clinical areas including Accident & Emergency (A&E), Intensive Care Units (ICU), and Ambulance Service. The title of "operating department practitioner" is a protected title in the United Kingdom and the profession has been regulated since 2004 by the UK's Health Professions Council (HPC).[1] ODPs work as a member of a multi-disciplinary team that includes doctors, nurses and support workers.

In the United Kingdom, the professional body of the ODPs is the College of Operating Department Practitioners (CODP)[2], previously known as the Association of Operating Department Practitioners (AODP).

The Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP), formerly the National Association of Theatre Nurses, is an organisation that offers membership and services to any person whether a Doctor, Nurse, ODP or Health Care Assistant (HCA).

ODPs provide care and support for patients undergoing surgery during the three main perioperative stages:


Anaesthetic stage

During this stage of a patient's care, ODPs prepare the drugs and equipment needed for the patient to undergo anaesthesia. This may involve preparing and checking the anaesthetic machines, intravenous drugs / fluids, and devices to maintain the patient's airway (e.g. laryngeal masks or endo-tracheal tubes). ODPs will also communicate with the patient when they arrive in the anaesthetic room, verifying the pre-op check-list for allergies and past medical history. These last "barrier" checks can sometimes discover important information that no-one else has picked up on, such as allergies and fasting status for example. They assist the anaesthetist with the planned anaesthetic. They stay with the patient throughout their surgical intervention and alongside the anaesthetist help to maintain the "triad of anaesthesia" which consists of:

  • Analgesia (pain control — opioid and non-opioid analgesics etc.)
  • Muscle Relaxation (muscle control via relaxants to facilitate ventilation or surgical requirements)
  • Hypnosis(drug induced sleep)

In some hospitals ODPs are members of "in-hospital" cardiac arrest teams, they work closely with anaesthetists to maintain the patient's airway and sometimes can instigate tracheal tubing where no other suitably trained person is available. They also attend "trauma calls" normally in the hospital's resuscitation area where they can deal with anything from babies with respiratory difficulties to major road traffic accident victims with polytrauma.

In some NHS Trusts, ODPs are also an important resource used during emergency inter-hospital transfers, mainly to Neurosurgical hospitals, decompression chambers and intensive care units. ODPs prepare and facilitate transfers arranging drugs, equipment, emergency airway apparatus. The anaesthetist, ODP and two paramedics usually make up the transfer team.

Surgical stage

The ODP's job during the preparation stage involves the ODP scrubbing his or her hands up to the elbow to prepare for the surgery; wearing a sterile gown and gloves; getting all the sterile instruments and equipment ready to be used for the operation; and working with the surgeon, passing the instruments within the sterile area.

Specially trained ODPs can also be the first assistant to the Surgeon. Swabs and instruments are all accounted for by the ODP to check that nothing has been left inside the patient.

The ODP may sometimes work in the circulating role during the surgical stage of a patient's care. In the circulating role, the ODP will give extra materials to the sterilised person, help position the patient on the operating table and plan ahead to supply what the surgical team may need during that case. They may also set up extra equipment needed, and act as a link between the scrub team and the rest of the hospital.

Recovery stage

When the operation has finished, the patient is taken to the recovery unit where the ODP will check the patient, providing airway management if needed and monitoring the patient's physiological signs. The ODP will then give treatment such as the administration of prescribed drugs or other procedures, allowing the patient to fully recover from the effects of anaesthesia. The ODP will also check if the patient needs help from a physician or can be safely discharged to the ward.


There are 28 universities in the UK that offer a Diploma in Higher Education qualification in Operating Department Practice. It is usually a two year full time course with some universities offering part time courses. The course is a balance of theory and practice, with the professional body requirement that students achieve a minimum of 3000 hours. A degree programme in the subject is currently being considered by the professional body with a view to this becoming the minimum level qualification to gain entry to the register by 2012/2013. The first BSc (Hons) in Operating Department Practice leading to eligibility to apply for registration was validated by Canterbury Christ Church University with the first intake of students in September 2009. There is potential to continue education & development after finishing this initial professional qualification. Students may decide to specialise more in the Anaesthetic phase and following further training become an Anaesthetic Care Practitioner or also known as Physicians Assistant Anaesthetics by the Royal College of Anaesthetists. Alternatively it is possible to specialise in Surgery and following further training become a Surgical Care Practitioner. These add on courses are available in a variety of full & part time formats, depending on the university. Following the disbanding of the English National Board (ENB) there is no nationally recognised qualification for nurses working in theatres although many universities offer the option of post registration Studies for Nurses wishing to specialise and pursue a career in the operating department. Many of these courses are benchmarked against competencies required by the ODP award which helps to ensure parity and that both groups of health care professionals are working to the same nationally recognised standards.

See also


  1. ^ Health Professions Council - Operating department practitioners
  2. ^ College of Operating Department Practitioners
  1. NHS careers website knowledge base

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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