Case study

Anaesthetic operating department practitioner — Daniel Cowsill

Dan explains what he enjoys about his job and shares some insights into the qualities you'll need to become an operating department practitioner (ODP)

How did you get your job as an ODP?

I studied operating department practice at Edge Hill University and after graduating found the job through the NHS jobs website. I worked with Manchester University Foundation Trust as part of my training, so it made sense to apply to them.

What are your main work activities?

A typical working day begins with a perioperative multi-disciplinary team meeting, where we will formulate a schedule with the anaesthetists, surgeons, nurses and support workers for each patient's operation.

I'll then prepare for the first operation ensuring all the appropriate and specialist equipment is adequately prepared, checked and in full working order. This needs to be undertaken in a regimented and ordered way to ensure everything is done correctly.

During an operation, I'll be on hand to assist the anaesthetist in safely securing and maintaining the patient's airway and physiological stability.

On an average day, I support five or six operations, which allows for a 30-minute turn around between each. I normally leave around 6pm having completed a ten-hour day, having had a short half hour lunch break around midday.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I'm now involved in educational roles, meeting students as well as mentoring and teaching other qualified staff. I'm also considering the Anaesthesia Associates Studies MSc, which will equip me with both academic and professional skills and enable me to advance in my role.

What do you enjoy most about working in theatre?

I particularly enjoy supporting patients in the perioperative stage, and acting as their advocate, which is particularly pertinent for those patients recovering from a traumatic experience.

The job is varied and provides a continual learning process, which keeps it fresh and interesting.

Also, although there will inevitably be stressful situations to deal with throughout the day, once I leave the hospital, I know I have no additional work to do and can therefore switch off from the day's events.

What are the challenges in your role?

Dealing with the backlog of patients can be challenging. Especially since many patients have been waiting longer than usual for their operations due to the delays caused by the pandemic. Compounded by the normal stresses experienced in the NHS, including staff shortages and a lack of funding.

What advice can you give to others wanting to work as an ODP?

It's essential you can work in a tidy and organised way with an eye for detail, while handling the pressure of a fast-paced environment. Having a patient nature is important as surgery cannot be rushed.

You'll also need an appetite for learning and be ready to integrate and communicate with staff from a variety of multi-disciplinary teams. You'll also need to be accountable for your own professional practice.

And above all, you need a strong stomach, as you cannot afford to be phased by the sight of blood, needles, and gore.

Make sure you research the role of an ODP thoroughly, including talking to individuals in the role.

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