An operating department practitioner is an allied health professional in the National Health Service who provides assistance and coordination for surgeries. This work includes interacting with patients and care providers before, during, and after surgery to make sure procedures run smoothly. Like other members of the surgical team, the operating department practitioner monitors for safety concerns and works directly with patients to educate them and keep them up to date on information about their surgeries.
To become an operating department practitioner, a person must attend a two-year professional training program. Students experience a mixture of classroom and clinical education so they acquire knowledge, along with practical skills. After graduation, students can apply to hospitals for work. Some schools offer job placement assistance, something applicants may want to consider when choosing where they want to receive training.
Before surgery, the operating department practitioner registers new patients, provides patients with information about their surgeries, communicates with the surgical team, and assists with surgical setup. This can include drawing up medications, counting and laying out surgical equipment, and other steps to prepare the operating room. Coordinating members of the team is an important part of the work, as is checking to confirm that everyone is aware of any surgical risks or concerns, like a history of lung disease that might complicate anesthesia.
In surgery, the operating department practitioner wears a sterile gown and provides assistance. This includes handing tools to the surgeon and assistants, counting and monitoring tools, as well as sponges, pads, and other supplies used during surgery, and circulating through the operating room. While circulating, the practitioner looks out for safety concerns ranging from a compromised sterile barrier to fluctuations in the patient's heart rate.
When the surgery is over, operating department practitioners assist with follow-up care. This includes monitoring patients as they come out of anesthesia, talking to people about how their surgeries went, and providing aftercare instructions and training. If patients have questions, the operating department practitioner can serve as a point of contact, and will help the patient with any needs before discharge.
At any given time, these medical professionals can be working with a number of different patients. They have a variety of skills they can apply to their work and must be very good at organizing and communicating. Breakdowns in the surgical schedule can turn into costly delays for patients and care providers, and the operating department practitioner must keep surgeries running smoothly and on time.