National ODP Day: We have a chat with Laura Mitchell about the profession | Latest news

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National ODP Day: We have a chat with Laura Mitchell about the profession

To celebrate National ODP day we’ve been having a chat with Laura Mitchell, an ODP and Team Leader of ENT and Cleft Palate Theatres at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.

She has been a registered ODP for 12 years.

What does your job see you do?

I am responsible for the day-to-day running of a four theatre complex, managing team of 28 staff members.  My other responsibilities include: Managing and investigating internal incidences, buying clinical instruments, clinical audits, benchmarking and recruiting new staff.

What is the role of an ODP?

ODPs are involved in the planning and delivery of perioperative care. 

The majority of ODPs are employed to work within the Operating Theatre setting, however some practitioners work within other environments such as: Clinical/University Education Settings, Intensive Care Units and Emergency Departments.

ODPs generally work as part of a larger multidisciplinary team which includes Anaesthetists, Surgeons, Nurses, Radiographers, Theatre Assistant Practitioners and Theatre Support Workers. 

Anaesthetic ODPs are often described as the “Robin” to the anaesthetist “Batman” as they work in tandem to provide and maintain safe airway support in various clinical areas.     

Surgical ODPs are responsible for the instruments, swabs and consumables and any other equipment that is required throughout an operation.  The Surgical ODP is accountable for all items used throughout the surgery ensuring that nothing is missing or left inside the patient.

Recovery ODPs are responsible for the patient condition following surgery.

ODPs are developing as a profession and are achieving additional higher academic qualifications to enable extended clinical roles such as the Surgical First Assistant and Non -Physician Anaesthetic Practitioner Training.

Have you always wanted to work in healthcare?

I always knew that I wanted to help people from a young age.  As a child I enjoyed playing nurses and teachers and I left school wanted to become a psychiatric nurse, but sadly it wasn’t the profession for me.  I was lucky enough to have completed an introduction to counselling course and a British Sign Language qualification which has come into good use within my current role. 

How did you get into your job?

I started working for Derby General Hospital as a Theatre Support Worker  for around 18 months, when I was a single parent looking to return to the NHS for a stable career.  I loved the theatre environment and I knew that I wanted to progress to become a registered staff member. I was encouraged by my colleagues to apply for my Dip HE in Operating Department Practice, which I did via Leicester University with placements based at the QMC.

What are some of your favourite things about your job?

I love the clinical work both on anaesthetics and surgery.  I am very lucky to have such an amazing team within ENT Theatres our unit is very friendly and welcoming.  The team make the department. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

We start the day with a theatre huddle where we share information with each other. The operating theatre team perform safety checks on all equipment and ensure that the theatres are ready and set up for the day ahead operating. 

We have a team briefing with the whole multidisciplinary team in each theatre, where each individual case is discussed.

The operating lists run all day, with case lengths varying from 20 minutes to 14 hours plus. 

Theatre teams are skilled at making best interest decisions for the patients and are exceptional patient advocates.  

No day is ever the same and teams are very flexible in their approach to work.  Debriefs are an important end to the operating list where staff have an opportunity to raise any concerns regarding the operating list, processes and equipment problems.

Has your job changed since Covid-19/ what have you been doing differently?

Yes- a lot of ODPs and theatre staff members were reallocated to work alongside our critical care colleagues within the Covid-19 theatre pod areas.  Staff members changed their shift patterns to support the increase critical care capacity demand.  Our roles have been very different to our duties within theatres and this was challenging initially but staff members were happy to be involved and learn new skills. 

I believe that the pandemic has enabled our Acute Pathway Division to become closer as we have all had to work together and support each other.

What makes you proud to be an ODP/ what’s been your proudest moment at NUH so far?

I am exceptionally proud to work as an ODP, caring for patients on a daily basis when they are at their most vulnerable.  Within my current role as Team Leader for ENT Theatres myself and my colleagues are often the last people to hear a patient’s voice as they have a general anaesthetic for a laryngectomy procedure. 

This is where the larynx is removed in advanced cancer surgery.  Often patients will record messages for their loved ones within the anaesthetic rooms prior to surgery so that they can hear the voices once again. 

 I was also very honoured to have been awarded Leader of the Year for NUH Honours 2018 after being in post for a year.

How can people get into the profession?

The Operating Department Practitioner qualification is a Bachelor of Science (BSc) course which is run by multiple universities. NUH have an alternative route to becoming an ODP and this is via an apprenticeship course, in conjunction with Leicester University.

A message to other ODPs to celebrate the staff:

Thank you for everything that you do.  We’re a small profession that are not very well known about within the general public.  Hopefully this will change as we continue to positively impact on the patient care within the clinical healthcare setting.


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