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Top 10 tips for the first day of Operating Department Practice placement

Sophie Cunningham

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Allied Health and Social Care
Course: BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practice
Category: Allied and public health

30 August 2022

Sophie in medical scrubs

Before starting my first Operating Department Practice (ODP) placement, I felt that I had a million questions as I was so nervous. Here are my top 10 tips for other ODP students.

I had never worked in theatres or even in a hospital before, which made it very nerve wracking. Initially I thought this would be a disadvantage to me, as other students had some experience in theatre, but it turned out that lots of students were the same as me. Additionally, I have yet to come across a team member that doesn’t remember what it was like when they first started.

I thought it would be a great idea to give some of my top tips for your first day of placement. I know having some of these tips would have answered most of my questions and eased some of my nerves. It is always nice to have some idea of what you are going into!

1. Don’t worry about what to wear on your first day

It felt very strange to me to not wear something smart, as if it was my first day of work, but honestly no one cares what you are wearing. Scrubs will be provided by your trust and so you will get changed almost immediately on arrival. There are lots of different sizes, so no need to worry about that either. Don’t worry if you try on a size that doesn’t feel right, just grab the next size up or down and put the old one in the laundry bin provided.

2. You don’t need to buy shoes

This really stressed me out as no one ever mentioned what we were expected to wear on our feet, but your trust should provide every student and staff member with one pair of clogs. There are also lots of spares provided, so you can easily figure out your size. You will probably wear a spare pair until your own ones arrive.

3. If you have tattoos, don’t worry about them being on show

Lots of staff members are covered in tattoos, even the doctors! You will not be judged for tattoos.

4. Don’t wear jewellery

Most allow one wedding ring and a small pair of stud earrings, but every trust is different, and this is something you can ask your trust on your first day.

5. If you have long hair, bring a hairband

It stays in your hat much easier if it’s tied up. Again, theatre hats will be provided as they are disposable and a one-use only item. In my trust, all students wear white hats, so they are not mistaken for qualified team members!

6. Bring a bottle of water and food on your first day

Trusts will provide a water fountain to top up your bottle and a fridge to keep your lunch in. Canteens are normally on site, however breaks are normally 15 mins in the morning and 30 mins at lunch, so going to the canteen can take up time if your trust is big.

7. Fuel up

I would suggest having breakfast before you arrive, as you don’t know what time you’ll get a break. Also, if it is your first-time seeing surgery, they do suggest it isn’t on an empty stomach!

8. Keep warm

If you get cold easily, I suggest wearing a vest under your scrubs. I am a cold person and find theatres very cold. Some trusts provide warming jackets but not all of them do, so come prepared. On hot days, I don’t always wear one, but I always have one in my bag just in case.

9. Don’t forget your student ID badge

You will be asked to show this on arrival and will wear it until you get your trust badge.

10. Relax!

No one is expecting anything from you, and everyone knows that you are learning. Just show you are interested by asking questions but also don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

One last thing...

When you get the email telling you where your placement is, any other students attending the same place will be included in the email. I emailed the other student I was placed with straight away, so that we were able to support each other from the start. I would suggest meeting another fellow student outside a little early and heading in together. You will end up supporting each other a lot throughout your studying!

I hope you’ll find these tips helpful. If you have other questions that I might not have answered here, don’t be afraid to ask someone. You can ask your Welcome Buddy, tutors or if you have joined up to the welcome course, you can post your questions on there!

Good luck on your first day and I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Sophie studies Operating Department Practice (ODP) at ARU. Find out more about the role of the ODP at one of our Operating Department Practice taster days.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.