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:

To become an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP), you typically need to meet specific academic and entry requirements. While there are no specific subjects required, you will generally need a strong educational background and may be required to take courses related to health and science. Here are the suggested and other qualifications to pursue this career path:

  1. English Language and Mathematics: It’s important to have experience in English and Mathematics at a minimum of grade C/4 or above, as these subjects provide essential communication and numerical skills.
  2. Science Subjects: Although not always mandatory, having qualifications science subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, or Physics can be advantageous. These subjects provide foundational knowledge for understanding medical and healthcare concepts.
  3. Additional Science or Health-Related Subjects: Consider taking additional science or health-related courses if available, as they can demonstrate your commitment to the field and improve your overall qualifications.

Post School

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