Case study

Perfect timing as Georgia retrains via hospital apprenticeship

Georgia Wood’s timing was perfect. The hospital worker was looking to pursue her passion and retrain as an Operating Department Practitioner - just as her employer was looking for people for its Operating Department Practitioner Apprenticeship. She applied straight away. 

What is an Operating Department Practitioner?

An Operating Department Practitioner is a professional practitioner with specialised knowledge of surgery, anaesthesia, and the care of surgical patients. They are increasingly represented in different NHS and private care settings but can most often be found in the surgical environment, accident and emergency unit, and the critical care unit.

Exploring a new pathway

Georgia developed her new passion while working as an Elective Theatre Assistant at Royal Stoke University Hospital and she had the opportunity to explore other areas of the hospital. She explains: “Once Covid-19 hit, we were being sent to the Critical Care Unit to assist the Covid-19 patients. This experience really highlighted to me how much I enjoy direct patient contact and how that can bring a positive impact on patient care. 

“When I wasn’t working in Critical Care, I was working in a Specialist Surgical Care Unit, helping patients who had gone through major surgery. I loved it! It made me realise that I really want to make a positive impact on these patients. That’s when I found my passion and pathway to becoming an Operating Department Practitioner.” 

The perfect opportunity 

Georgia began exploring ways to take the next step within her career. She was looking for self-funded opportunities to learn more about becoming an Operating Department Practitioner. That’s when the perfect opportunity was presented to her by her current employer. And she couldn't say no.  

She explains: “At the time of me deciding that I would like to pursue a career in Operating Department Practitioner, I was originally thinking about going self-funded and leaving my job. But it just so happened that at the time that my employer was looking for people to apply for the Operating Department Practitioner Apprenticeship in collaboration with the University of Derby. I knew I had to take the opportunity straight away.

The course is completed over three years, and students leave with a Bachelor of Science. Two modules are run over each term, approximately lasting three to four months each. You can expect to have frequent distance lectures, and guest talks with specialists in their field. Despite being a distant learner, the module activities are interactive, allowing you the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with your cohort.

Each year, you will attend a week-long residential with your cohort, and experience student life within the university. There will be various informative lectures, and interactive simulation training!”

A typical day in Georgia’s life 

Now, two years into her apprenticeship, Georgia has been able to gain experience in a range of different areas within the hospital. She explains: “As an Operating Department Practitioner Apprentice, we can explore three roles: Anaesthesia, Recovery and Surgical Scrub. Which route you take will depend on the job you are looking to qualify in and what we are doing as part of our course at the University.  

“Right now, I am exploring the Anaesthetic Practitioner role, working within the Cardiac Theatre. Typically, I am one of the first people someone will see if they are going into surgery and it will be my duty to help assist the Anaesthetist by putting people to sleep, waking them up and assisting in making sure the surgery goes well. 

“I have worked in 15 areas so far and I can go into any surgical speciality I want, whether that’s Intensive Care or A&E. That’s what I love about this apprenticeship, you can literally go anywhere and everywhere! My favourite placement so far has been Orthopaedics and Trauma. However, Cardiac is quickly becoming my favourite!” 

Growing professionally and academically 

Georgia never saw herself excelling academically but ever since starting her degree with the University of Derby, she has grown academically and professionally. She says: “I have never received such good academic support. I was never one to through college and really excel. However, since being at Derby, I am on the path to get a First because of the good support I am getting. The feedback I get from my assignments is incredible and the lecturers communicate with you constantly. They want you to do really well and it shows.”

Georgia completing a procedure on a practice dummy

Within the workshops, we practice procedures such as urinary catheterisation and venous cannulation on dummies. Since doing those workshops, I’ve gone back to my job and catheterised patients so it really is all transferable skills.

Georgia Wood
Operating Department Practitioner Apprentice at Royal Stoke University Hospital

Next steps 

Now going into her third and final year of university, Georgia is looking at her options for after she graduates. She explains: “There are so many different routes you can take as an Operating Department Practitioner. Now, I am debating between whether I would like to stay on full-time in the surgical theatres or maybe expand and move into the Critical Care Unit. Or maybe I could explore Perfusion, which is an area of Cardiac, involving with putting patients on bypass! Australia, New Zealand, and Canada are screaming out for Operating Department Practitioners too so that’s always an option.” 

Top tips for future apprentices 

Georgia recommends: “If you are already thinking about it, you are on the right lines. I think once you dive in you will realise you have made the best decision ever and you will love every single second of it.” 

Two female nursing students using breathing apparatus on a female mannequin

Find out more about this apprenticeship

This degree-level apprenticeship qualifies you as an operating department practitioner: a registered healthcare professional specialising in caring for people of all ages before, during and after surgery.

Learn more about the Operating Department Practitioner ApprenticeshipLearn more about the Operating Department Practitioner Apprenticeship