Operating department practitioner
Laboratory & Medical Technical

Operating department practitioners, also known as ODPs, support multidisciplinary operating theatre teams during anaesthesia, surgery and recovery. The other side of an ODP's role is the provision of patient care before, during and after operation, which entails responding to patients' physical and psychological needs.

Work Activities

The day-to-day duties of operating department practitioners vary, as they're typically determined by the stage of the procedure, although there can be an overlap. Accordingly, pre-op tasks will normally include:

  • preparing the operating theatre and equipment
  • making sure specialist equipment is available when necessary
  • monitoring and maintaining theatre cleanliness
  • ordering and rotating items of stock and drugs
  • acting as the link between the surgical team and other parts of the operating theatre and hospital.

Examples of the types of activity ODPs carry out during operations include:

  • providing the surgical team members with the equipment they need during an operation
  • monitoring instruments
  • keeping accurate records.

Post-surgery tasks, meanwhile, include:

  • providing care and expertise to patients in recovery
  • ensuring patients are fit enough to be discharged to the ward.

Operating department practitioners tend to be based in pre-operative anaesthetic areas, operating theatres and recovery rooms, which are sterile, well-lit and usually warm. As with other members of the operational theatre team, ODPs wear surgical clothing and a mask.

Operating department practitioners work around 38 hours a week on a shift system, which rotates and includes days, evenings, nights and weekends. Many operating theatres run 24 hours a day and often respond to emergencies, so ODPs are expected to be available for overtime as well as be on call. The National Health Service (NHS), which employs ODPs, does facilitate flexible and part-time working arrangements.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Skills and attributes required for operating department practitioner

  • Stamina and resilience, as working in the theatre can be emotionally and physically taxing
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Organisational skills
  • A strong stomach and a high level of cleanliness
  • The ability to perform under pressure
  • The ability to anticipate the needs of the surgical team and respond efficiently and effectively

Pay And Opportunities

Employers of operating department practitioners

Operating department practitioners typically work for the NHS, within operating theatres. Increasing numbers of these professionals are deployed in other critical care areas of a hospital such as accident and emergency, intensive care, day surgery clinics, maternity units or within resuscitation teams. The Royal Air Force also employs ODPs.

Opportunities for progression

There are several routes for progression available to operating department practitioners. Some experienced ODPs, for example, manage an operating theatre unit, having progressed to a team leader or senior position. Others move into education and training, where they mentor trainees, or research. Another option is to continue with further training approved by the Royal College of Surgeons (www.rcseng.ac.uk), in order to work as a surgical care practitioner.


Qualifications and training

To work as an operating department practitioner you must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (www.hcpc-uk.co.uk), a UK-wide regulator. In order to register, you will have to complete an HCPC-accredited course and obtain either of the following qualifications: a two-year diploma or a three-year degree in operating department practice.

There are currently no HCPC accredited courses in Scotland.

In addition to the HCPC-approved qualifications, budding operating department practitioners need:

  • A level (at least 220 UCAS points) or equivalent qualifications (Highers and/or Advanced Highers in Scotland- check individual courses carefully)
  • a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English language and Maths, or equivalent (National 5s in Scotland)
  • Clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service

Aspiring operating department practitioners should note that relevant practical experience may support an application and NHS funding for an approved course may be available.

Once registered as a practitioner, you will be required to keep your knowledge and skills current and pay an annual retention fee in order to stay registered with the HCPC.

Search for...

Degree Explorer

The Degree Explorer helps you plan for your future! Match your interests to university subjects and explore each recommendation to find out what suits you.

Get started

Register today

Sign up to access to use your dashboard and receive extra advice in your inbox

Sign up