Case study

Operating department practitioner — Emily Taylor-Wilkinson

Emily explains why working with vulnerable patients in an orthopaedic theatre department gives her so much job satisfaction

How did you get your job?

After undertaking many work placements within the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust, I was delighted when a position arose in the orthopaedics department.

Having successfully completed placements in the orthopaedics department, I already knew that I loved working there, and that the experience I had gained would put me in a strong position for securing the role.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

It's relevant in every aspect. Without it, I could not do this job. I studied a BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practice degree at Sheffield Hallam University.

What are your main work activities in theatre?

Helping to support patients both before and during surgery. Before surgery involves supporting patients through the anaesthetic process and working alongside the anaesthetist. During surgery, I support the surgeon by ensuring all the correct instruments and equipment are ready and on hand for the procedure.

I usually work Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm. Arriving early to get organised, my colleagues and I begin the day with a 'team huddle'. This involves all theatre staff and is our opportunity to discuss and plan any practical issues for the day, such as clashes with equipment usage.

Within the surgical role, I prioritise checking all the instrument trays against the operating list, making sure all the required instruments are available and helping to set up theatre with all the appropriate equipment and resources for surgery.

If I'm working in an anaesthetic role, my priority is to carry out a complete check of the anaesthetic machine, ensure this is working correctly, and to gather essential anaesthetic equipment for the theatre list.

By 8.30am we have a team brief, including the surgeon and anaesthetist, here we discuss in detail each patient and the surgical and anaesthetic requirements for them, outlining more details of the health of the patient and any concerns.

Every patient and operation are different and can vary in length from as little as 15 minutes to eight hours. At the end of surgery, it's the surgical practitioner's responsibility to give a full handover to the recovery nurse or ODP on the patient's operation and current condition.

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

My confidence has developed and I have learned an enormous amount, which has enabled me to contribute more to the team.

I hope that I can continue to progress and become a team leader. I really enjoy working as a team, supporting everyone to do their best for patients.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I particularly like working with vulnerable patients, and especially the elderly. I enjoy caring for them and take pleasure in knowing that because of their operation, I am helping them achieve a better quality of life in the future.

What are the most challenging aspects of being an ODP?

Being in theatre for long periods of time can be challenging. The environment is fast-paced, and you're always learning as surgical techniques are ever changing.

Having the ability to adapt is important if you want to work in surgery.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to work in this role?

Have an open mind, and a desire to learn. Things are constantly developing so you need to be able to adapt.

Really push yourself out of your comfort zone within your scope of practice. Doing so really helped me to develop confidence.

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