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Staff spotlight: operating department practitioner

Jenny Miller, operating department practitioner at University Hospital Southampton

Jenny is an operating department practitioner at University Hospital Southampton (UHS), working in our education team to support and coordinate learning for students from local universities. 

‘I came into my healthcare career a little later in life, working as an engineer in the Royal Navy before taking a break to have my children. When I returned to work, it was time for me to rethink my career path. I think I knew somehow that a fast paced healthcare environment would be right for me, which is why I looked for a role in my local emergency department as an administrator.

‘The emergency department was so vibrant and exciting, and I was so captivated by the clinical side of things that when I found an opportunity to move into a clinical role -  as a cardiographer in clinical investigation - I jumped at the chance. I loved the pace of clinical work, helping to solve the complex problems that patients came into the department with, so I applied to university as a mature student, deciding to study operating department practice and become an ODP.

‘Not everyone knows exactly what an ODP is – there can be a misconception that we’re nurses that happen to work in theatres, but this isn’t the case! All our training is in theatres, which means that we’re specialists of that area, bringing a different dimension of care to work alongside our nursing counterparts.

‘Once I qualified, I worked in a number of different hospitals – initially in recovery, which wasn’t my main interest, but after rotating into a post in trauma and orthopaedics, I really found my passion. I’m a very hands on, practical person, with the mind of an engineer – witnessing the body change from something broken into something whole is completely fascinating to me.

‘The nature of UHS as an acute trust means that we get a very different experience here than in some other organisations. We do not deal with the ordinary, so every person working here has to be able to rise to a challenge and think outside the box. We’re supported by a fantastic team – from surgeons to cleaners, everyone is so important and each plays their part in helping our patients.

‘This year I was seconded into our education team, and since then I’ve become responsible for students from Bournemouth and Portsmouth, as well as work-based learners. With a considerable amount of experience across a number of different trusts, I’m well equipped to offer our students different pieces of advice and insight as I support them through their placements.

‘Here at UHS, we hold practice sharing sessions for students, where they can talk about what they’ve done that week, what they haven’t done, and what they’d like to improve. No matter which university they’re from or which stage of their course they’re at - we can all learn so much from one another, so we have weekly coffee mornings to get together and have these important discussions.

‘If you’re thinking about a career in operating department practice, I really couldn’t recommend it enough. My journey proves that it’s never too late to take up a new profession and learn new skills. There are so many options for someone looking to embark upon a new career, and once you get here, there are countless opportunities for on the job training, so you can hone your skills and work on developing even further.

‘Looking to the future, I’m planning to develop my role in education even further. With the development of a new BSc course at Bournemouth and its specific third year criteria, it will be my responsibility to develop a learning plan for the university students on placement here, which I’m looking forward to.

‘My advice for anyone applying to UHS as an ODP is to call the department ahead of your application – come and have an informal visit with us so we can show you exactly what we do. I love showing people around, talking about what working here is like and why I love my job. If you’re considering your options or are unsure if the role is for you, come and see for yourself!’

Thinking of a career in operating department practice? Find our current vacancies here