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A day in the life of an... ODP at Bupa Cromwell Hospital

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Each month we will publish a 'day in the life' of a member of staff to showcase some of the many different roles across the hospital. This month; Mark Yates, Operating Department Practitioner (ODP)...

Mark Yates

What made you want to become an ODP?

I was six years old when I realised I wanted to work in healthcare. I was a badger and a cadet in St John’s Ambulance, and one of the first people to get the Grand Prior Award, so was pretty set on becoming a paramedic. When I was 16 I wanted to move into hospital work, but I was too young to work with patients so started in microbiology, preparing swabs, urine, blood cultures etc for testing, as well as helping out in the mortuary. The lead mortician was an ex ODP who told me about the role, and that’s the first time I came across it. After a couple of years in microbiology the opportunity came up to apply for an ODP position, and here I am 15 years later.

What is the best thing about your job?

I love being able to see a whole range of surgery, and observe amazing things that people in other industries just don’t get to see and experience. I also get to be involved in pioneering new surgery, which is really interesting.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Although we work shifts, surgery can be unpredictable and we can’t just leave when our shift finishes if we are in the middle of something or an operation overruns. I wouldn’t say I find this a hard part of the job though, it’s all part of being an ODP which I love.

What is an average day like for you?

The good thing about being an ODP is that there’s no such thing as an average day; every patient and every surgery is different. 

My shifts vary from 7.45am – 3.45pm, 1pm – 9pm, and on call once a week. When I arrive I test the anaesthetic equipment; checking the machines to make sure everything is working correctly, and preparing the equipment that the anaesthetist will require, such as airway equipment and anaesthetic drugs. When the surgeon and anaesthetist arrive we run through the WHO checklist and discuss specific requirements for the patient, any allergies or the need to use different equipment. 

I’m one of the first faces that the patient will see in theatre. I greet them, and check that they are the correct patient for the correct procedure. I then check the necessary paperwork - the consent form, pre-operative check list, the area of the body on which they are having surgery, blood tests and MRSA results. I connect the anaesthetic monitoring equipment and assist the anaesthetist with administering medication and securing the patients airway using an E.T tube or LMA. We then transport the patient to theatre and onto the operating table. 

I’m present for the whole operation to assist with any extra medication required, fluids that need changing, blood gases that need taking or anything else that requires my assistance. Once the operation is complete I carry out the same procedures in reverse. The ODP job finishes when the patient gets into recovery and we begin again with the next patient.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?

You have to learn on your feet in this job, for example knowing which patients you can talk to and which don’t want to chat, possibly because of nerves. It isn’t something you can be taught. Some patients tell you their life story, and others don’t want to talk at all.

The ODP role offers a lot of scope for progression - from being a senior in theatres, to theatre manager. You can also provide first aid at concerts and events. Do it, it’s a great career.

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