operating table

Operating Department Practitioners

Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs) are healthcare professionals working in the United Kingdom. They are mainly employed in surgical operating departments but can be found in other clinical areas including Accident & Emergency (A&E) Intensive Care ICU/ITU units and The Ambulance Service. The title of "operating department practitioner" is a protected title and the profession is regulated in the UK by the Health Professions Council (HPC).

ODPs work as a member of a multi-disciplinary team that includes doctors, nurses and support workers. Since 2004 the profession has been regulated by the HPC but was previously regulated by the Association of Operating Department Practitioners.

The professional body of the ODPs is the College of Operating Department Practitioners (CODP) previously known as the Association of Operating Department Practitioners (AODP). The Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP) - formally 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 are involved with the overall planning and delivery of a patient's perioperative care.

For a patient undergoing surgery the perioperative period of their care can divided into three main areas:

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:

  • Analgesic (pain control — opioid and non-opioid analgesics etc.)
  • Relaxation (muscle control via relaxants to facilitate ventilation or surgical requirements)
  • Narcosis (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. ODP's prepare and facilitate transfers arranging drugs, equipment, emergency airway apparatus, and generally assist the anaesthetist, who along with the 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 are 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 you can get a Diploma in Higher Education qualification in Operating Department Practice. It is a 2 year course full time (though 2 places run this over 3 years) and some universities offer 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 of both theory & practice. A degree programme in the subject is currently being considered, though if agreed this will not be introduced before 2012. There is also a potential to continue education & development after finishing this professional qualification, you could decided to specialise more in the Anaesthetic phase and become an Anaesthetic Care Practitioner, or alternatively you could opt for Speciality in Surgery and become a Surgical Care Practitioner, and pay would relate to your new role within your department. These add on courses are available in a 1variety of full & part time formats - see local Universities for details.

Some Institutions offer Accredited Prior Learning (APL) courses. For example Teesside University offers the APL Nursing course to ODP's, this enables a fast track way to become a Nurse after a year of full-time study, or the option of the Paramedical Sciences course which can super fast track the student to an Emergency Care Practitioner (an extended role paramedics) in just 12 weeks. Other Universities (such as University of Huddersfield) prefer to offer the option of a Diploma of Professional Studies for Nurses in Theatres (as there is no nationally recognised qualification for nurses in theatres) so allowing nurses to access the ODP award and thus ensuring that both groups of health care professionals are working to the same nationally recognised standards.


  1. NHS careers website knowledge base

See also

External links

Search another word or see operating tableon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature