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Top 5 reasons to become an ODP

Stephen Vaughn

To mark National Operating Department Practitioners' (ODP) Day, Stephen Vaughan chats about his top 5 reasons to become an ODP, after 20 years in the profession!

1. An opportunity to add value 

I have worked in many hospitals in London, and I currently work as a clinical educator at St Bartholomew’s theatres.  I started in the NHS as a healthcare assistant working on a care of the elderly ward at Charing Cross Hospital.  

On a nightshift an immobile patient was severely dehydrated and needed a central venous line.  The nurse in charge asked me to call the anaesthetist.  The anaesthetist arrived with an ODP, and I was thoroughly impressed with the technical knowledge, skills and professionalism that was displayed by the ODP as they prepared the patient for the invasive procedure.  The patient suddenly arrested, and I froze! However, the ODP knew exactly what to do and I only remember being astounded by the seamless demonstration and co-delivery of skilled care by the ODP and anaesthetist.  At that point I wanted to become an ODP, and I got a job as a cardiothoracic theatre support worker at the Hammersmith Hospital.  You really had to show merit for secondment opportunities, and I was selected to be part of the ODP 2000 group of Thames Valley University (Now University of West London) which was a new initiative to increase the academic credibility of the ODP profession. 

The wonderful thing about being part of Barts Health is the growing recognition of the value of ODPs.  But what value do ODPs bring to our workforce? Here are four more reasons to become an ODP:

2. Become a problem solver 

The ODP is a problem solver that uses their technical expertise to ensure patient safety particularly in the perioperative environment.  The ODP will utilise tools such as the World Health Organisation safety checklists, or the Difficult Airway Society guidelines to ensure patient safety.  The old adage of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved' is a daily experience for ODPs since they work inter-professionally with nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists, healthcare assistants and healthcare scientists.   

3. Enhance your risk assessment skills 

The ODP always puts patient safety first!  We ODPs must recognise the effects of perioperative vulnerability of our high-risk patients.  Frequently, ODPs make the decision to escalate high risk situations to safeguard our patients. It is about being professional and not being hesitant to ask for help.  Some staff may perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness or failure. Fortunately, the ODP role mandates risk assessing clinical situations by prioritising safety to ensure favourable patient outcomes.  

4. Harness your clinical competence 

Although the ODP has indisputable clinical competence in surgery, recovery, and anaesthetics.  There is a tendency for ODPs in London hospitals to specialise in anaesthetics due to vacancy demand. The ODP is uniquely challenged to extend their expertise beyond the theatre suite in other settings.  The transferability of resuscitation and trauma skills of ODPs was evident during the pandemic.  These skill sets were identified as highly valuable at a time where patients were increasingly at risk.  This could indicate the potential for ODPs to be involved in new service development that integrates the ODP role within other critical or acute care areas such as ITU or the emergency department. 

5. Improve your leadership and knowledge

Currently, ODPs have extended their scope of practice in leadership and education.  ODPs at Barts Health are involved in coordination and floor duties and ensure that scheduled lists run smoothly.  As an ODP I am part of the AHP board which encourages strategic leadership, along with the inclusion team that promotes inclusive leadership.  I also collaborate with the nursing directorates as an opinion leader where needed.  There are a growing number of ODPs involved in various educational interventions across Barts Health.  As an ODP in education I am duty bound to share my extensive knowledge and experience with a variety of learners to meet learning needs.  Currently, Barts Health promotes the ODP apprenticeship pathway that enables the opportunity to become an ODP apprentice.  In fact, St Bartholomew’s Hospital has pioneered our first ODP apprentice, from the HCA workforce. This is a landmark in ensuring the posterity of the ODP profession and paves the way for more ODP apprentices from other sites within our Trust.


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