The Operating Theatre Technician
The Cinderella Profession
It surprised some but not too many who worked in the capital hospitals that a senior nurse should write in support of the OTT, it did not surprise the OTT in London because they were recognised for what they did by all the nursing and anaesthetic staff.
So history shows that the Theatre Technician struggled to gain recognition as a serious group within the theatre environment, and certainly had the Cinderella image as a profession within the theatre team. This was mostly due to the growing influence of the nurse (with the backing of the surgeon) within the theatre environment who was resisting any incursion into what they now saw as their domain.
It was in 1970 that Lewin 20 pointed out the lack of identity of this group of Theatre Practitioners in the theatre environment and made known that the OTTs skills was being wasted by just working on the anaesthetic side of theatre work. This resulted in a name change, to clear any previous identity problems, to the Operating Department Assistant, with the City & Guilds qualification 752 being the formalised training programme that all could relate to.
The ODA started to be recognised in some if not most areas of the country; however, they were still mainly used anaesthetics. The anaesthetist that introduced Halothane into use Michael Johnstone was a great champion of the Theatre Technician and was influential in the setting up of the recognised City and Guilds course.
There was a change of training techniques in the 80s and the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) was put into place this incurred yet another name change to, this time to Operating Department Practitioner which it still is today.
Bevan reported 21 in 1989 and urged the system to consider ODP's for all roles in theatres but recommended that they be subject to the same registration system as their nursing colleagues.
There was a voluntary registration system in place since 2000 but that has now been taken over (2004) by the Health Professional Council (HPC) who now control registration for all ODP's. The Operating Department practitioner now undertakes a two-year diploma course at university.
In the future, a full-time degree course will almost certainly replace this qualification. The future is looking better for the ODP's as there is now a wide acceptance of them in the majority of trusts up and down the country.
There are still those hospitals that still look upon ODP's as a lesser entity in theatre, and go all out to protect the hierarchy ensuring the nurse will always be on top. There are several ODP theatre managers and senior staff in Trusts up and down the country. However there are still far too many trusts who do not Trust (pun intended) ODPs and will prefer nurses always especially in management of the theatre.
As Operating Department Practitioners and Theatre Nurses, we are valued members of a surgical team. Our main aim is to ensure that the patient gets the best possible treatment while in our care within the operating theatre department.
Our aim is achieved by giving technical assistance to the surgeon, anaesthetist and other physicians. It also requires us to directly treat patients, as one example, in the recovery room by administering pain prevention medication and anti-emetics. We are required to maintain our professional development, keep up to date with current thinking on medicine in the theatre environment and accumulate a great deal of knowledge with regards to the wide range of equipment that is employed within today’s operating theatres, anaesthetic rooms and recovery suites.
We need to be able to adjust quickly to the changes brought about by the development of new complex equipment, new surgical procedures and coping with the ever-changing Clinical Governance issues that are brought in.
Improving efficiency in the Operating theatre is on-going and is dependent upon the individuals who work within the department. There is a wealth of expertise within the Department.
Patient care issues are now addressed at regular audits and Data collection at these audits, help to increase understanding. When acted upon, this in turn improves the competence of all those who work with patients within the department. It is the duty of everybody to sound out how procedures could be improved for the benefit of the patient.
We as ODP's and Nurses need to fine-tune our skills to a new higher level to ensure maximum safety and efficiently for both patient and staff.
Surgery that historically is described as the art and practise of treating injuries, deformities and other disorders by manual and instrumental means is advancing rapidly and we have to keep up with the developments.
There is a greater awareness of the need for infection control to be maintained by the minute within the theatre suite and where there is patient contact.