Operating theatre

Operating Department Practitioners – The Unsung Heroes

This year, more than ever, these unsung heroes deserve our attention and support as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. In this article we would like to acknowledge the operating theatre staff for their contribution in this crisis.

An ovation for theatre staff

Since COVID-19 arrived in the UK in late January, NHS staff have worked tirelessly to treat patients and comfort families of coronavirus victims – often at a risk to their own health. From March through to May, the nation came together every Thursday to clap for front line and key workers, with the spotlight very much on NHS doctors and nurses. Although these essential workers very much deserved our praise and thanks, little was said about Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs).

Skill and dedication

Highly skilled and endlessly compassionate, ODPs are surgical team members who perform the incredibly important trilogy of perioperative care, anaesthesia, and post-anaesthetic care during surgical procedures. A vital role during normal times, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ODP role took on an increased level of responsibility.  For many coronavirus victims, treatment involves being sedated for breathing tubes to be inserted. During this sometimes-frightening procedure, the Senior ODP is often the last person that the patient sees and speaks to before sedation. Due to government restrictions, the ODP would also be responsible for passing on messages to loved ones who were unable to be there in person.
As well as continuing with their vital work during the pandemic, many ODPs have also used their skills and experience to help on the front line. Many of these currently registered with AppLocum are multi-talented individuals, with a vast range of experience.


One of our candidates recently wrote to us about her experience, before and during the pandemic. Since 1991, her experience includes working as a paediatric nurse and a spell in maternity, which is where she found her true passion for the operating theatre.


After obtaining enough qualifications to enter the realm of the operating theatre, she continued to train as an ODP and once fully trained, found that anaesthetics and recovery was where she really wanted to be. However, with a thirst for knowledge and wanting to help others realise how important ODP roles are,  her next venture was to attain a Teaching Diploma and a Health and Social Care Degree. After several years however, her desire to get back into theatre work with colleagues and the ‘ODP family’ that she missed, encouraged her to give up the Theatre Manager position she held and go back to using her clinical skills to more fruition, and to what she really loved – helping people and saving lives.


Joining AppLocum was a step in the right direction, and it did not take long to place her in an NHS hospital, working in CCU – right in the hot spot of COVID-19, due to the demand that the virus had put on staff within the NHS. Without doubt, as she reports, this was the most challenging and difficult thing she had ever had to face, not just for herself, but for those she saw every day, with more and more on ventilators.


After experiencing rapid and intensive training, she soon became a part of the team, but found the most difficult thing was the discomfort of working full shifts wearing PPE. From dehydration to sheer exhaustion and masks that created a ‘bad taste in your mouth’, she continues her shifts, and has not lost the desire to help and assist very sick patients. A truly dedicated member of the nursing profession.


You can read her full story, in her own words here.


If you have what it takes during difficult and also good times, why not join AppLocum and put your skills to full use.

A job well done

Whilst compelling, this story is by no means unique and on the 14th May, a call went out for a special extra clap for ODP staff during what had become a weekly event. Hannah Abbott, President of CODP, which is affiliated to Unison, said, ‘Every ODP has contributed to the current COVID-19 emergency. This includes on the frontline, supporting essential education or by assisting the government to protect the NHS and for this we thank you’.


If you have never experienced either a minor or complex surgery, you may be forgiven for assuming that the whole surgical operation is down to a surgeon and, possibly, his or her assistant. The ODP team is an intricate network of professionals working together to ensure that procedures are completed correctly, efficiently and safely. Operating theatres are complex and rely on the precision of the entire theatre surgery team to keep them running smoothly. This includes several key members of staff including admins who keep on top of scheduling and availability of theatres, cleaners who ensure that theatres are clean and sanitised, nurses who perform vital preparation and patient care and, of course, anaesthetists and the surgeons themselves.


Each member of the team has a particular set of skills which are necessary to allow the team to work like a well-oiled machine within a fast paced and often stressful environment.

Take a bow

As pressure begins to ease on COVID-19 wards and ICUs, our nation’s ODPs will once again begin to resume quietly providing outstanding care to patients and their families and helping to save lives daily. As they do, we will be keeping them in our thoughts – all 13,731 of them.


AppLocum welcome all and any operating theatre professionals, whilst we strive to provide assistance in placing candidates who are needed for their expertise within the care sector.

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