Students from Alton College took part in a pilot project to shine a spotlight on an essential but lesser-known career in the NHS.

In a day of learning at the college’s mock operating theatre, they watched surgery being performed live at University Hospital Southampton and learnt about the critical role played by the operating department practitioner (ODP) while mirroring tasks performed by ODPs before, during and after surgery. 

This event was a new hybrid way for the NHS to give careers education virtually and in person.

It offered talented potential members of the NHS workforce a chance to meet key NHS staff at the college and enabled the students aged 16 to 18 to see what goes on inside a real operating theatre.

The project will be expanded to selected colleges in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight to raise awareness of different NHS careers.  

The day was organised by NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight’s 350+ NHS Careers Programme, which seeks to inspire the next generation about the more than 350 different NHS careers.

The programme launched the mock operating theatre at Alton College last October.

It is designed to be a practical learning space for the college’s T-level and A-level students. 

Kat Millmore-Davies, who is in charge of education outreach for the 350+ NHS Careers Programme, said: “The ODP plays such a critical role in an operating theatre, and they’re usually the last person a patient sees when going to sleep and the first they see upon waking, yet the role is suffering a skills shortage because not enough people know about it.

“Our students were tasked with a range of activities, from weighing swabs and identifying instruments to performing post-operative observations like taking blood pressure and using their maths skills to calculate drugs and medication.”

The students, who are studying T-levels in health, healthcare science and A-level biology, participated in practical simulated tasks including a caesarean section, instrument selection and mannequin intubation, overseen by ODPs Joshua Bulleyment and Bethanie William.

They also met consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Aiman Alzetani and ODP Elizabeth Riley.