Operating department practitioners: the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 crisis

sub brand ODP Dip HE

As countries worldwide battle the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare professionals are calling for greater awareness of crucial – but perhaps less well known – healthcare roles.

Academics at Birmingham City University are celebrating the work of Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs) as the ‘unsung heroes’ of the COVID-19 crisis to mark National ODP Day (May 14).

ODPs are the only professionals trained specifically to care for patients in the operating theatre.

They provide essential care to patients throughout the entire surgery pathway, including during anaesthetics, surgery and in recovery, but the pandemic has seen them re-deployed to help care for coronavirus patients in intensive care units.

Their work has played a key role in helping the NHS deal with the influx of patients admitted to hospitals during the outbreak of COVID-19, but the profession remains little-known among the general population.

Laura Garbett, Lecturer and Outreach Coordinator for Operating Department Practice at Birmingham City University, explained why ODPs are the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 crisis: “2020 is a year that will be remembered as a pivotal moment for ODPs.

The UK has seen an outpouring of support for healthcare workers throughout the crisis with the nation coming together to ‘clap for carers each Thursday’ and the story of Captain Tom Moore raising millions for the NHS Charities.

But many professions within the sector, including ODPs, remain little known despite the significant contribution they have made throughout the period.

National ODP Day comes as the University, which began a major partnership in 2017 to help tackle skills shortages facing six NHS Trusts in South West of England, is creating a new ODP degree apprenticeship programme.

The programme will allow students to earn while they learn, preparing them for frontline roles in healthcare whilst also picking up a degree.

Laura explained: “The team here at the University are currently writing a BSc ODP degree apprenticeship programme to allow ODP apprentices to work towards becoming a registered ODP whilst earning a wage and working as part of a team caring for patients undergoing surgery.

“Hands on experience of the role in the operating theatre and beyond during the training programme will produce confident, experienced and well-prepared registered ODP professionals at the end of the apprenticeship.”

Katy Griffiths, Head of Perioperative Education at Plymouth NHS Trust and a Birmingham City University practice partner is keen to train ODP apprentices to ‘grow their own’.

She said: “By funding BSc ODP apprentices, as an employer we will be able to secure a steady supply of home gown ODPs to our workforce. Graduates will finish their training with experience in the role, no university fees to pay and with a lifelong career ahead of them as an ODP.”

To express interest in the Birmingham City University BSc (Hons) ODP degree apprenticeship programme which the team hope to run in 2021, please contact Julie Quick or Fiona Urwin.