What is an Operating Department Practitioner and What Do They Do?

If you’re considering a new career in healthcare, or even a career shift, few working environments are more challenging yet more rewarding than an operating theatre.

We’ve got a comprehensive guide to the various roles and responsibilities in an operating theatre. We’ve also got a dedicated guide to the key responsibilities for operating theatre managers.

In this post we’ll take a closer look at the work of an operating department practitioner.

What is an Operating Department Practitioner?

Operating department practitioners play a vital role in all three stages of perioperative care:

  • Anaesthetic
  • Surgery
  • Recovery


Operating department practitioners provide essential help to patients before surgery. They might supervise patients to ensure they’re ready for their procedure. And where necessary, they might offer words of comfort and support.

Operating department practitioners will also support anaesthetists through helping them prepare their equipment and drugs. You’ll help set up anaesthetic machines, intravenous equipment, and the devices for securing the patient’s airways while they’re under anaesthetics.


Operating department practitioners are a key part of the surgery team. Once again, they’ll support surgeons through preparing all the necessary instruments and equipment for the procedure, such as microscopes and endoscopes.

During the procedure, operating department practitioners will provide the surgeon with all the correct instruments and materials. They’ll also act as a link between the surgical team and the other parts of the theatre and the hospital. Good communication can help decrease turnaround times between procedures, but it’s also vital to effective emergency response.

In short, during procedures, operating department practitioners must learn to anticipate the requirements of the surgical team and respond quickly and effectively. So surgical teams depend utterly on operating department practitioners. When ODPs take care of their practical and clinical needs, surgeons are free to concentrate entirely on the procedure.


Following the procedure, operating department practitioners support and monitor the patient once they arrive in the recovery unit. You may have to provide appropriate treatment while they recover from the short-term effects of the anaesthesia and surgery. And you’ll conduct the assessment to determine whether the patient’s ready for discharge to a ward.

What Else Does an Operating Department Practitioner Do?

Operating department practitioners might have the opportunity to specialise in different clinical specialities, or even to work across a wide variety of specialities.

You may also play an educational role, delivering training on clinical skills, resilience, and wellbeing to staff, students and learners.

For a good idea of the day in the life of an operating department practitioner, read this personal account from Jordan, an ODP at The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Delivering Exceptional Care Quality Standards

At Cairn Technology, we specialise in helping operating theatre teams improve efficiency and care quality standards.

In the operating theatre, the smallest thing can make a huge difference. For example, absorbent floor mats can collect all excess fluid during a procedure, and they can be simply picked up and discarded afterwards. So you’ll spend less time mopping between procedures, which will improve health and safety standards while also significantly cutting down on turnaround times.

We can provide expert advice on improving operational effectiveness in the theatre, as well as specialist consultation on effective infection control. Get in touch to talk to one of our friendly experts today.