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What’s it like to work in an operating theatre?

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Reading time: 3 minutes

Jack is training to be an operating department practitioner, a vital part of the surgical team. Here, he explains what it’s like working in a life-or-death environment.

What is an ODP?

A lot of people ask me that! It’s not a very well-known role but we are a vital part of the team delivering operations in hospital.

An ODP is an operating department practitioner. We provide care throughout a patient’s journey through an operation.

We work in three areas.

1. Anaesthetics – we prepare the patient ready for surgery, reassuring them and assisting the anaesthetists with anything they need while the patient is put to sleep.

2. Surgical – this is where we are scrubbed up working with the surgeon, preparing equipment, setting up the machines ready for surgery, and maintaining the patient’s safety throughout.

3. Recovery – when our patients are beginning to wake up from the anaesthetic, we’re there to make sure they come round safely. We look after them before we take them back to the ward.

What attracted you to the role?

The excitement started at day one for me, from the moment I walked into an operating theatre. Just realising this was going to be my job.

You’re not sitting behind an office desk checking emails and writing reports. You’re helping someone through a very scary time in their lives, and at the end they will hopefully have a very positive result.

What’s it like working in an operating theatre?

It’s different every day. You might think you know what you're being faced with but it can change in an instant.

Preparation is key – if you’re prepared you’re in control, and you have everyone around you to support you. That’s when everything you’ve learned – from anatomy to the equipment available to the drugs involved – comes in handy as you deal with an emergency situation.

What’s been your most memorable moment so far?

The job is intensely rewarding every day. But I remember one case in particular where we were doing a stoma reversal in a premature baby.

I had seen the patient at the very start of their life, and it was amazing that the next time I saw them, instead of working to correct all their problems like we were doing before, it was working towards complete recovery.

The stoma reversal was a sign that the baby was on its way to having a normal life, which was an amazing transformation.

What’s your advice to anyone thinking of becoming an ODP?

I'd recommend this career to anyone who wants to work in a hospital, especially if you know that you are interested in theatres. Theatres are one of the most intense places to work which means you learn so much specialised knowledge at a fast pace.

The tutors on this course are so supportive, and from the first week of the course at Hallam you’re allowed straight into the operating theatres, observing surgery first hand and helping prepare you for three years of training. I can’t recommend it enough.

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