Operating department practitioners

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) are an important part of the operating department team working with surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre nurses to help ensure every operation is as safe and effective as possible.

ODPs provide high standards of patient care and skilled support alongside medical and nursing colleagues during peri-operative care. The ODPs role involves the application of theory to practice in a variety of clinical settings. The ODP therefore needs a broad knowledge and skill base including management and communication skills and will be involved with the assessment, delivery and evaluation of peri-operative care.

Peri-operative care can be divided into three interconnected phases -

  • Anaesthetic phase
  • Surgical phase
  • Recovery phase

The anaesthetic phase
During this phase, the ODP will:

  • Assist the patient prior to surgery and provide individualised care
  • Need an ability to communicate and work effectively within a team. undertake a role which will also involve many clinical skills such as the preparation of a wide range of specialist equipment and drugs.
  • This includes anaesthetic machines, intravenous equipment and devices to safely Secure the patients airway during anaesthesia.

The surgical phase 
ODPs will participate, as part of the operative team in a number of roles including the "scrubbed" role, application of aseptic technique, wound management and infection control.

During this phase ODPs, will:

wearing sterile gown and gloves, prepare all the necessary instruments and equipment for the procedure. This may involve complex machinery including:

  • Microscopes, lasers and endoscopes. Work alongside the surgeon, providing correct surgical instruments and materials in order to ensure safe and efficient completion of surgical procedures.
  • Have a role in the promotion of health and safety and is therefore responsible for ensuring that surgical instruments, equipment and swabs are all accounted for throughout the surgical procedure.
  • Undertake the circulating role, utilising communication and management skills, preparing the environment, equipment and acting as the link between the surgical team and other parts of the theatre and hospital. be able to anticipate the requirements of the surgical team and to respond effectively.

The recovery phase
During this phase, ODPs:

  • Receive, assess and deliver patient care on their arrival into the recovery unit. monitor the patients physiological parameters and support them, providing appropriate interventions and treatment until the patient has recovered from the effects of the anaesthesia and/or surgery and is stable.
  • assess the patient in order to ensure they can be discharged back to a surgical ward area evaluate the care given during the peri-operative phases (anaesthetics, surgery, recovery)

Applying to train as an Operating Department Practitioner


How to apply
A list of courses in operating department practice can be obtained from the College of Operating Department Practitioners (CODP). For most courses, you will need to apply through the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS). Others may require a direct application. Check with the course provider directly for details.

Entry requirements 
Academic entry requirements vary between courses. Usually a minimum of five GCSEs at grades A-C (or equivalent) are required, but many institutions require AS level (or equivalent)and A level qualifications. It is essential that you contact the individual higher education institution to check their entry requirements.

The training varies between higher education institutions, combining plenty of practical involvement in an operating department with learning the background and theory. You will spend time at local hospitals (e.g. theatres, emergency and intensive care units).

It is generally a two year programme leading to a qualification of a Diploma in Higher Education in Operating Department Practice. Although training courses can range from two years (full-time) to seven years (part-time). Some institutions offer additional study leading to a degree level qualification.

Career prospects 
Once you have qualified, pay and responsibility will depend upon experience and further specialist skills you may acquire. It is possible to become a senior ODP, perhaps running a theatre unit. ODPs may work in a wide range of areas including transplant teams, orthopaedic clinics and special care baby units. There are also opportunities in research, education and training.

Registering as an operating department practitioner 
Since October 2004, it has been a requirement to be registered With the Health Professions Council to work as an Operating Department Practitioner.

Operating department practitioner students


As a large Teaching Hospitals Trust we usually have up to fifteen Operating Department Students on placement with us at any one time.

They are placed in various Theatre locations around the Trust and are Mentored by Qualified staff.

The Students are usually studying for a Diploma in Higher Education at the University of Central Lancashire

Course Outline

Year 1 
Semester 1
NU1051  Care from the Patient's Perspective (20 credits)
NU1052  Introduction to Perioperative Practice (20 credits)

Semester 2
NU1050  Developing Professional Practice (20 credits)
NU1053  Perioperative Care (20 credits)

Semester 3
NU1054  Consolidation of Perioperative Care (40 credits, double module)

Year 2 
Semester 1
NU2063  Developing Skills in the Anaesthetic Environment (20 credits)

Semester 2
NU2064  Developing Skills in the Intraoperative Environment (20 credits)

Semester 3
NU2065  Developing Skills in Post Anaesthetic Care (20 credits)

Year 3 
Semester 1
NU2335  The Research Process (20 credits)

Semester 2 & 3
NU2061  Managing Care Delivery (20 credits)

Semester 1, 2 & 3
NU2053  Enhanced Clinical Practice (20 credits)

Useful Documents

Theatre Profile Lancs Teaching [pdf] 142KB
Standards of Proficiency [pdf] 117KB 
Operating Department Practitioner NHS [pdf] 137KB 
ODP uclan [pdf] 395KB


Useful Websites


Health Professions Council

College of Operating Department Practitioners

University of Central Lancashire

Working As An Operating Department Practitioner


Where do ODPs work?

ODPs are a vital part of the clinical team and provide professional expertise during the patients stay in hospital. Although they are primarily employed within operating theatres, they are increasingly being recognised for their skills in other critical care areas.

ODPs may be found working as:

  • Scrubbed person
  • First assistant to the surgeon
  • Surgical assistant

ODPs also manage the preparation of the environment, equipment and acts as the link between the surgical team and other parts of the operating theatre and hospital. They must be able to anticipate the requirements of the surgical team and to respond effectively.