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Shining a light on a fulfilling healthcare career
14 May 2018

Ipswich Hospital is shining a light on the vital role played by its operating department practitioners (ODPs) during an awareness day designed to celebrate their contribution while encouraging more people to consider going into the profession.

The hospital is working closely with the University of Suffolk (UoS) to raise awareness of the role and the training which is available locally, as well as the ‘return to practice’ courses which are open to those who have had a career break but want to get back into the theatre.

The call ties in with national ODP day, which takes place today (14 May) and aims to celebrate the contribution made by ODPs to frontline patient care.

ODPs work across three areas – anaesthetics, surgery and recovery. Their role includes helping prepare patients for their operation, working as part of the surgical team and supporting and monitoring patients during their recovery.

To qualify, students must complete a three-year degree, which is made up of four-week blocks of classroom learning followed by eight to 10 week long practical placements gaining hands-on experience in the operating department.

“I am thoroughly enjoying the course,” said Craig Thomas, 29, who is currently completing the first year of his degree at the UoS after spending nine years as an engineer in the Royal Air Force. “The placements have been great and the mentors have been extremely helpful. The level of support I’ve received from both the hospital and the university has been brilliant.

“I’ve always been fascinated in the way the body works and knew I wanted to do something medical after leaving the military. Training as an ODP was a great fit for me – the degree course will open up lots of roads for career progression, and I hope to go into trauma before completing a masters and becoming a surgical care practitioner.

“I would definitely recommend the course to anyone considering a career in healthcare.”

Ipswich Hospital currently employs around 50 ODPs working across 19 operating theatres. Among them is Tracy McGuire, who specialises in gynaecology and obstetrics and works in the Blyth Theatres while also acting as a mentor for student ODPs.

“My family has personal experience of having surgery, and every time the staff made them feel like they were the only patient in the room,” said Ms McGuire. “That was the reason I wanted to do this job – every patient is someone’s mum, dad, brother or sister, and the way they are treated can make such a huge difference to their experience at what can be a worrying time.

“ODPs are a really important part of the surgical team, and play a role in not just reassuring patients but also putting their relatives at ease as well. By making the patient’s experience as good as it possibly can be, we can also hopefully help to reduce any anxiety they may feel if they need to come in for another operation in the future.

“I love the NHS and really enjoy my job. I find the theatres a really nice environment to work in, and especially enjoy the variety it brings – no two days are ever the same. I also really enjoy passing my knowledge onto students and preparing them to become practitioners within their own right.

“I’d really recommend the role – as long as you care about other people and are passionate and have a thirst for knowledge, anyone can do it.”

For more information about ODPs, visit www.healthcareers.nhs.uk and search for operating department practitioners in the drop-down box. Anyone who would like to find out more about roles available at Ipswich can also contact Romilly O'Driscoll, clinical educator for paramedics and theatres, by emailing romilly.o'driscoll@ipswichhospital.nhs.uk

To find out more about the courses available at the University of Suffolk, which include return to practice options, visit www.uos.ac.uk/courses/ug/diphe-operating-department-practice