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The Operating Theatre Technician

The work of the Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) has evolved over the years into what is now, a fully recognized, registered and respected profession. It is now considered an integral part of the theatre team.

Fig 6(Picture shows a theatre team after a charity fund raising event)

The journey has been slow, difficult and many obstacles have had to be crossed. It has only been formally identified as a profession since 1971.
It has existed under the names of Operating Theatre Technician, Operating Department Assistant and presently, Operating Department Practitioner. 


The origins of ODPs and to that matter, theatre nurses are quite complicated as they never just appeared, but came into being because of the needs at the time.
Prior to the
“invention” or discovery of modern anaesthesia, the position of surgeon was always looked down upon by the physicians within the medical profession. Strangely, it is anaesthesia that has given surgeons credibility, respect and equality within the medical profession.


Since that October day in 1846, when the first anaesthetic was officially given, surgery has been able to become increasingly more complex, whole industries have been formed to supply the different specialities needs. Whereas before, the surgeon would have operated on all surgical conditions, they now specialise in several different areas. In some specialities, i.e. orthopaedics’, they sub specialise, i.e. hand or foot specialities.


During Morton’s time an anaesthetic was given by dentists and ad hoc assistants; eventually (in the UK) the position was eventually taken over by physicians.
And these physicians have struggled over the decades to be given recognition for their speciality. They in decades past could relate their fight for respectful recognition to ours struggles as a profession. The danger is that now they have attained near academic equality with surgery, they will lose the empathy they once felt for our profession. We do not want to lose the support of our traditional supporters, the anaesthetists.
However, we have traditionally had problems in being recognised by the surgeons as a viable profession, there were several reasons for this.
In the early days the OTT was generally male, and the OTT was opposed by surgeons because they preferred the female.

The theatre Nurse had established herself at the turn of the 20th century in theatre due to staff shortages (War enlistment) and in some cases they influenced the surgeon to

They were cheaper to employ, and as prior to the NHS it was in the interest of the privately funded hospitals to keep costs to a minimum. Surgeons got more for their money. 

It can be assumed that the female nurse was easier to control.

Today it is the case that a majority of the ODPs in the country are now women, and this has in some ways improved the image of the ODP, especially where the surgeon is concerned. It is the case that the scrub assistant could be a nurse or an ODP and in some cases, the surgeon has no idea what they are. It is also the case that today we have far more male nurses working within the theatre environment and all in all the surgeon is now not surprised to see a male assistant whether scrub  assistant or anaesthetic assistant.


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