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How to Become an Operating Department Practitioner in the UK

Operating Department Practitioner

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) play an important role in helping surgeons and other operating theater staff perform successful medical procedures on patients. They prepare patients for surgery and set up surgical equipment. If you are empathic, possess great practical skills and fancy the opportunity to work in healthcare settings, you could become an operating department practitioner.

What Do Operating Department Practitioners Do?

ODPs deliver their services before, during and after surgeries. Their duties include:

  • Preparing surgical equipment and monitoring machines during an operation
  • Ensuring special surgical tools are available before any surgery
  • Assessing patients before they enter surgical wards
  • Performing circulating duties – Involves supplying the surgical team with the items they require during an operation
  • Maintaining high levels of theatre cleanliness
  • Keeping patient records
  • Training newly qualified operating department practitioners

Work Environment

On average, these practitioners work for 37.5 hours a week. They typically work on shifts covering weekdays and weekends. Because healthcare emergencies are common, these practitioners are often on-call.

ODPs work in sterile, clean and well-lit environments. They wear protective clothing such as lab coats and gloves while at work.

The work of ODPs can be emotionally and physically demanding since they stand for long periods of time watching patients in difficult health situations.


The salary for new and experienced ODPs is:

Level of experience

Annual pay

Newly qualified ADPs

£21,176 - £27,625

Experienced ADPs

£34,189 or more.

Source: National Careers Service


To become an ODP you should:

To take the DipHE course, you will need five GCSEs (A-C) including math, English and science. Some providers accept applicants with relevant credentials such as the Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care.

As a prospective ODP, you should note that training involves 40 percent classwork and 60 percent practical work. Some of the covered courses include:

  • Anesthetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Infection control
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Care before, during and after surgery
  • Standards of professional practice

Clinical placements are conducted in operating theaters, accident and emergency departments or intensive care units.

Essential Skills and Abilities

Effective operating department practitioners have:

  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Good level of manual dexterity
  • Good communication skills
  • An awareness of patient information confidentiality laws
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • The ability to concentrate for long periods and work calmly under pressure
  • Awareness of safety and health issues in the place of work

Career Development

After gaining the entry-level qualifications, you can pursue a degree to enhance your career chances. The HCPC lists approved courses.

Students taking approved degree courses are eligible for funding from the NHS to meet tuition fees and other expenses.

It is important to keep updating your knowledge throughout your career through short courses.

Job Opportunities

Qualified operating department practitioners work in:

  • Hospitals
  • The National Health Service
  • Private hospitals
  • The armed forces.

With enough experience, you can become a team leader or a senior practitioner. You could also choose to move into training, research and education, as long as you have advanced educational qualifications. Alternatively, you could specialize in baby care or organ transplantation.

Check out these websites for more career information and job opportunities:

Finally, by pursuing this career, you will be among several healthcare practitioners who work tirelessly to help people recover from their illnesses. The National Careers Service expect the UK economy to create 113, 000 jobs for healthcare practitioners by 2020. Therefore, there will be plenty of employment opportunities for you.

So if you feel that you have the necessary attributes and drive to work in a surgical environment then this might just be the right career for you.


Image Source: Staffordshire University

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