A guide to studying Operating Department Practice courses at university - including what to expect, application tips and careers after completing the course.
What is Operating Department Practice at University?
An Operating Department Practice (ODP) course at university equips you with the knowledge needed to support operations in clinics and hospitals. Operating Department Practitioners mainly work in three areas in theatre environments which are Anaesthetics, Surgery – (scrub role) and Post-anaesthetic Care (Recovery).
Anaesthetics involves supporting the patient and anaesthetist during the time that a patient receives their anaesthetic.
Surgery – (scrub role) is responsible for preparing instruments and equipment that is needed by the surgeon.
Post-anaesthetic care involves looking after patients who are emerging from anaesthetic, monitoring their recovery, checking for any complications and giving reassurance. You will also learn how to provide support out of theatre environments, for example, the intensive care units or resuscitation team who deal with emergencies including cardiac arrests.
What to expect if you study Operating Department Practice at university
Entry criteria for an Operating Department Practice course is usually 112 UCAS tariff points, although the course is mainly practical this will demonstrate ability for the academic requirements of the course. You will also need GCSE passes in Maths and English at Grade 4/C or above or equivalent.
Any science or social care background or knowledge will help on the course, however, these will be taught and many universities do not require qualifications in these subjects. The course will be split between theory and academic and practical work; courses are very practical and you will probably be on placement as much as at university. You will be on a placement quite early in your course, once you have learned some of the theory, to start to gain clinical practice under close supervision in operating theatres.
Reasons to become an Operating Department Practitioner?
With this role you will have great variety and immense job satisfaction, knowing that you are part of a team helping to potentially improve or save somebody’s life. In terms of variety, you can choose whether to specialise in one particular aspect of the three areas - Anaesthetics, Surgery – (scrub role) or Post-anaesthetic Care (Recovery ) or all three.
There is also variety in terms of different types of surgery, including maternity and obstetrics, paediatrics, trauma, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, general surgery and many more. The job is also constantly evolving with new ideas and techniques being developed, one currently developing technique is robotic surgery.
As an Operating Department Practitioner you can focus your energy and efforts on one patient at a time, allowing you to ensure the best level of care, which makes this a very rewarding career. There are options to progress your career, you could develop your skills and go on to become a Senior Operating Department Practitioner as well as other leadership roles including Theatre Team Leader or Matron.
There may be opportunity to undertake a masters degree in subjects including Anaesthesia Associates or Surgical Care Practice, enabling you to be more ‘hands on’ with surgeries and anaesthetics. There are also opportunities in research and in education either academically as a tutor or clinically as a mentor.
With thanks to our event speaker (Featuring on the video)
Lorraine Horton Smith, Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield.