What it's like to study BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practice at BCU: a student perspective

BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practice student, Ellie, has shared her experience of studying at Birmingham City University (BCU) and her advice for those considering Operating Department Practice.

What is it like being a student Operating Department Practitioner?

Incredible, humbling and the best decision I have ever made! Operating Department Practice is often described as ‘the hidden profession’. It doesn’t take centre stage very often, yet the work of Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs) is fundamental in the smooth running and safety of the operating theatre and beyond. Gone are the days when ODPs were referred to as ‘assistants’, they are highly specialised practitioners working in operating theatres, resus teams, emergency departments and critical care areas to name a few. This is why it is so important to shout from the roof tops on days such as National ODP Day to share what this profession does and encourage the next generation of ODPs to take the plunge into studying!

Why Operating Department Practice?

I always knew that I wanted to work within healthcare, however I wasn’t sure the exact direction I wanted to take. I tried a few different roles and in my last role discovered the incredible work of ODPs. ODPs are central to operating theatre teams; they work within the team in anaesthetics, scrub and recovery. They use their extensive technical knowledge and skills to provide top quality patient care. After doing some further research, I was sure this was the career path I wanted to go down. I applied to BCU, had my interview and was lucky enough to get a place on the course. I have been studying since September 2020 and am now certain I made the right decision.

Have I enjoyed the course so far?

Yes - that’s the simple answer. It has been everything I imagined and more. We spend 60% of our time out on placement within hospital trusts and 40% in university. In the time we are on campus at BCU, we have lectures, group work and skills sessions which enable us to learn the underpinning knowledge needed to be competent practitioners. Not only is the content of the course interesting, but it also always gets you thinking. There is so much to learn but we have been taught in such a way that we build on each area so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. I am currently on placement in a theatre which has a variety of specialities, so my day is full of variety.

What is placement like?

When I was about to start my placement, I was so nervous and thought that I didn’t have any knowledge behind me. However, I was put into such a good learning environment that I realised I do have a good background knowledge and I have been able to build on this every day. The placement team work closely with BCU to ensure we are getting the best experiences possible, and I am so well supported by my mentors in practice. We spend time in all three areas - anaesthetics, scrub and recovery. It is such a privilege to be part of the team and be part of a patient’s journey. It is such a rewarding career path; I can be an advocate for patients at their most vulnerable times and use technical skills to provide high quality care.

What would you advise others considering Operating Department Practice?

Go for it! I started the course as a mature student and this has not disadvantaged me in any way at all, I have still been able to experience university life whilst having a home life. Research the role of the ODP and gain an understanding of what it is they do! When applying to university, think of your transferable skills and how your life experience can help you on your journey to becoming an ODP. If you can get experience within a healthcare setting then that is great, but if you cannot, have a think of what you could bring to the profession. Take every opportunity with both hands and give it a go!

Let’s keep raising the profile of the profession!

Ellie Milner (Student ODP)

Interested in studying BSc (Hons) ODP?

Find out more information by visiting our BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practice (ODP) course page.

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