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  • 04 April 2018
  • 6 min read

How to become an Operating Department Practitioner

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

We look at how you can become an Operating Department Practitioner or ODP, what the training is like and how you can get a job once you qualify.

The job of the Operating Department Practitioner is to be present in the surgical environment working within a team of other healthcare practitioners including surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre nurses to ensure a safe and effective procedure is carried out every single time.

Peri-operative care is carried out in three phases - the anaesthetic phase, the surgical phase and the recovery phase.

An ODP will work within the team to provide a high standard of patient care in one or a combination of these phases.

All ODPs are registered with the Health Professionals Council, and have a unique professional registration number that allows them to practice, just in the same way that nurses have from the NMC.

How to train as an ODP

Several different training providers offer two different lengths of qualification to become an ODP. There are 2 years of full time study required for the DipHE and Diploma, and 3 years for the BSc qualification.

Providing you undertake an HPC approved course, you will be eligible for professional registration upon completion of your training and to work as an ODP.

You can view a full list of approved courses here.

Many operating department practice courses expect you to have some type of healthcare experience when you apply, so in the months before UCAS opens try to undertake either voluntary or paid work in a health care environment.

You might be able to get a part time job as a care assistant in a care home, or volunteer on a hospital ward.

The admissions officers know you won’t be able to get experience in a theatre environment and they aren’t expecting you to, however, they are expecting you to have some working knowledge of a caring environment and person centred care.

Your future role as an ODP will very much be concerned with the wellbeing of the patient, as well as the technical and specialist knowledge required to prepare equipment and assist the theatre team during the procedure.

How to apply for an ODP course

All applications for Operating Department Practice courses are made through UCAS and you can apply from September onwards for intake in the following year. Places are often limited and over-subscribed so some institutions will only accept applications between September and January for entry the following September.

The universal requirements for entry are:

• Clear CRB check

• Likelihood of Occupational Health clearance

Academic and vocational entry requirements vary between training providers and can include:

• GCSE Maths and English at minimum of grade C

• Minimum of 5 GCSEs in total

• QCF Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care (or NVQ equivalent)

• 160 UCAS points from a minimum of two A levels

• Evidence of academic study in past 5 years

When you register with UCAS you will be required to fill out an application form and compose a personal statement, which are then sent directly to the admissions tutor at the universities you’ve applied to.

Your application form must contain as much information as you can possibly give about previous work experience, voluntary activities, out of school achievements as well as academic qualifications.

Your personal statement is the only chance you have to talk directly to the admissions officer, who is assessing your application, about why you want to be on the course and why you deserve an interview.

If you don’t make the shortlist at this point, unfortunately you won’t get an interview offer so it's crucial your personal statement makes the right impression.

Make sure your personal statement puts forward all your relevant achievements, experience and passion for studying the course and becoming an ODP.

An understanding of the job and the career of an ODP is essential so make sure you convey that in your statement.

What will you study once you’re on the course

The study material will vary depending on whether you’re taking the 2 year or 3 year route, but the course always consists of part theory work and part placement experience, typically in the ratio 40:60.

The theory work is delivered at the university campus through lectures, group exercises and often some e-learning. The placement experience will be in local operating theatre environments, often in the NHS but sometimes within a private sector healthcare provider.

You will continue to receive support during your various placements through a university tutor and a placement mentor, but you will be expected to manage your own learning outcomes and ensure you make the best use of each placement. 

Although the university will often try to place you close to where you live, you should be prepared that there will be some travelling involved.

How to get a job once you qualify

Despite the gloomy economic outlook in the UK, there are still ODP vacancies in both the NHS and the private sector.

Most often, companies advertise their vacancies online so you don’t have to go to several different places to search.

Operating Department Practitioner jobs on Nurses.co.uk are usually advertised by recruitment agencies looking for staff in a range of different environments and locations, so start your search there to see which vacancies are available in your local area.

About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

I'm fascinated by the career choice we all make. It speaks so much about who we are. People choose to become a nurse or work in medicine or care for one of two reasons. One: simply, they always wanted to be a nurse or social worker or doctor. Two: even more simply, they want a job which helps people. In our blogs we explore the career choice that puts others first.

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  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder, Niche Jobs

I'm fascinated by the career choice we all make. It speaks so much about who we are. People choose to become a nurse or work in medicine or care for one of two reasons. One: simply, they always wanted to be a nurse or social worker or doctor. Two: even more simply, they want a job which helps people. In our blogs we explore the career choice that puts others first.