What it's really like to be an ODP

We’ve spent time talking to BCU alumna Paige Jones, who works as an ODP and was recently filmed for a BBC documentary: Edge of Life. Below, Paige very kindly gives us an insight into what it’s really like to be an ODP.

I qualified as an Operating Department Practitioner in 2015 from Birmingham City University. I work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham in the Cardiac Theatres as an Anaesthetic Operating Department Practitioner. I currently am studying for my Cardiac Care Professional Practice course, which is very much related to my current role in caring for a wide range of cardiac patients.

What led you to become an ODP?

From a very young age I always knew I wanted to work in a hospital and I have always had a big interest in science (in particular human anatomy and chemistry). I initially went to the BCU undergraduate open day to look at the Radiography course, however on looking around, I came across the Operating Department Practitioner Course and I saw the Operating Theatre and learned more about a role which is still very much unknown by a lot of people. As soon as I found out more about the ODP role I knew this suited exactly what I was looking at for a long, lifetime career in healthcare.

What’s a typical day as an ODP like?

As an Anaesthetic Practitioner, your day will start by ensuring that all the equipment is safe and adequately prepared to accept the patient, like checking the anaesthetic machines and the vital signs monitors. A team brief will occur before the start of every operating list and this gives the Operating Department Practitioner an opportunity to discuss the planned care of the patients with the anaesthetist. The ODP will prepare all the airway management and monitoring equipment that is necessary for the case. This includes IV fluids, difficult airway equipment and any extra invasive monitoring required. The ODP is then able to check the patient into the theatre area, the anaesthetic ODP is the first person that the patient meets in theatres and it is important to establish a good trusting relationship with them from the outset.

The ODP will apply monitoring to the patient and then assist the anaesthetist whilst they insert an IV cannula, administer the anaesthetic and secure a patent airway. Once the patient is anaesthetised the ODP will ensure the patient is safely positioned on the operating table and that they are kept warm throughout the procedure. Every speciality varies with the type, length of anaesthetic and the amount of monitoring that could be required, it is important for an ODP to be able to possess the skills to adapt to cases changing and moving through different specialities to gain their confidence.

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What was it like being involved in the BBC programme?

Whilst being filmed for the Edge of Life programme, it was important to still remain focused and not to be distracted by the cameras in the theatre. It was one of the most high risk cases we do within the cardiac theatres with lots of preparation and equipment required so we all had to have full concentration throughout to ensure the case was completed as safely as possible. Having the BBC filming the Aneurysm case they did, it was good for us to highlight the importance of teamwork and good communication and that when things don’t go to plan, how we as a team adapted to the changing conditions during the operation and remained calm throughout.

What was it like being involved in cutting edge procedures like those shown in the BBC programme?

As a cardiac ODP, no day is the same, we have a 24/7 emergency theatre and the team have to be prepared to accept the high risk cases from both the Queen Elizabeth and transfers from hospitals around the region. The environment is very high paced, unpredictable and the team have to think quickly to be able to react to the emergency situations we encounter, sometimes on a daily basis. However, it is very satisfying and rewarding when all the hard work pays off and it is a positive end result for the patient.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about training to be an ODP?

If you’re thinking of becoming an ODP, as a student you have to be prepared to put in hard work and commitment to do both the studying and working on placement. You will have the opportunity to rotate around the different specialities during the training programme and will be trained in the anaesthetic, scrub and recovery role, which makes the course interesting and varied and allows you to see the complete patient journey.

Some qualities I think are good to possess if you’re looking at becoming an ODP are:

  • Good communication and organisational skills,
  • A caring and supportive nature,
  • Care when using technical equipment.

Upon qualifying, you need the willingness to continue your lifelong learning with further training and to also be flexible with shifts as every speciality has different shift patterns that you have to adapt to.

What should you do next?

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