Operating Department Practitioner

Job Description:

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) provide skilled care and support to patients at all stages of an operation.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

You’ll support patients of all ages in the anaesthetic, surgery and recovery phases of an operation.

As an operating department practitioner, you could:

  • help patients who are anxious or vulnerable get ready for surgery
  • prepare the operating theatre and make sure drugs and specialist equipment are available
  • monitor instruments and how clean the theatre is
  • provide the surgical team with any items they need during an operation
  • talk to other hospital staff for the surgical team
  • support patients after their operation and assess when they are ready to move to a ward


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of medicine
  • knowledge of biology
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure (leadership skills)
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
  • active listening skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

You can get into this job through a university course or an apprenticeship.


You’ll need to study a diploma of higher education which takes 2 years or a degree in operating department practice which takes 3 years.

You can do further study to top up your diploma to a degree after you qualify.

Work experience

You’ll find it helpful to get some paid or voluntary work experience in healthcare before you apply for a course.

You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator at your local public hospital trust for advice.


You could do an Operating Department Practitioner Apprenticeship. This usually takes 4 years to complete and is a mix of learning on the job and academic study at an approved university.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 38-40 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings/weekends/bank holidays on shifts.

You could work in a public or private hospital. Your working environment may be hot and physically and emotionally demanding. You may need to wear a uniform.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience you could:

  • progress to team leader or senior operating department practitioner and manage an operating theatre unit
  • move into education, training or research
  • do training approved to become a surgical care practitioner
  • train to work as an anaesthesia associate or advanced critical care practitioner