Top 5 Tips for Placement as an ODP
The absolute golden tip for all trainees, which I still keep up even after qualifying and becoming a practicing ODP: Get in early! It’s absolutely natural for trainees to take a bit longer doing certain tasks and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you’ve given yourself enough time to do everything you need to safely, methodically and with time to troubleshoot if/when you need to.
Most “shifts” on placement will have an official start time of 08:00am with the operating list starting for 08:30am. That gives you 30 minutes to:
- Complete x2 full anaesthetic machine checks
- Preparing/stocking up your airway trolley
- Preparing IV fluids
- Ensuring you have enough anaesthetic drugs for the list
- Finding linen/blankets/pillows (always takes more time than you expect!)
- Figuring out what table attachments you might need & making sure they work/fit
Even for the most experienced ODPs out there, sometimes 30 minutes just isn’t enough time to make sure you’ve planned, prepared and exercised every eventuality that could happen, so try to give yourself more time in the morning to get a head start and hit the ground running.
Be prepared to start from square one again if you’re not with your designated mentor
Sometimes you’ll be allocated to work with different/new/unfamiliar mentors for whatever reason (sickness, holiday, skill-mix) which means that you might have to show your understanding and skills at the most basic of tasks to work back up to the level you were working at with your previous mentor.
For example, if your designated mentor has got you up to the stage of checking anaesthetic machines independently but your new mentor has never seen you check a machine, they will most probably get you to do a full check while talking through your thoughts/actions to make sure you are competent and able to check the anaesthetic machines.
Same goes for scrub placements – Your mentor could be happy to let you scrub independently for certain procedures, but if your new mentor has never seen your scrub technique or witnessed you working with-in your own sterile field, don’t take offence if they insist on double-scrubbing with you to err on the side of caution
Remember: You are their responsibility for that day/list/placement and they are letting you work under their hard-earned registration/PIN. They are going to want to make sure you are safe!
Fill in your scrub book entries as soon as you can & reflect with your scrub mentor at the end of each day
This one may seem either easier said than done or common sense, but sometimes you can lose track of the procedures that you’ve scrubbed for and you do not want to rely on your memory after a long day full of learning, demonstrating and experiencing new skills to make sure your scrub pad is accurate and up to date.
The best way to do this is by either making quick notes as you go along (for the fast turn-around lists) that you can build on over lunch/tea break or writing accurate reflections after each case.
If you can, ask for regular sessions at the end of the day to reflect on your scrubbing practises and get a clear idea of what you can improve for the next day, what you already are doing really well (there are ALWAYS good points to reflect on, despite what you might think) and making the link between theory/anatomy/practical skills.
These points will help your mentor(s) realise that you are dedicated and willing to learn, even if the procedures you are scrubbing for aren’t overly complex.
Ask what’s on the operating list for tomorrow & refresh your notes/research topics of interest about the procedure/technique/anatomy
This one takes some time to build up to but is worth its weight in gold – Ask your mentor what’s on the list for the next day and make notes so you can brush up on relevant knowledge, skills, anatomy.
This goes back to the idea of being able to hit the ground running; you’ll be able to start your day already knowing what’s on the list, specific techniques used for that speciality and key areas of interest to keep an eye out for.
Make sure you are taking regular breaks
There is a big shift in healthcare to ensure that staff are taking regular breaks at appropriate times to break up the stress of “rush-stress-panic-impulse.” It’s more important than ever to make sure your mental and physical health are getting the rests and breaks they need in order for you to be the best version of yourself.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a step back and saying “that last case was a lot to take in, would you mind if I take a tea-break to regroup and I’ll join you in insert time needed?”
In my experience, this has always helped gain more respect from mentors because it shows that you are aware of your limitations and you’re able to voice your concerns in a professional manner that demonstrates knowing you need to look after yourself in order to look after patients.