• 21 September 2021
  • 6 min read

Operating Theatre Staff: Who Can You Expect To See On Your First Day?

  • Amira Begum
    Scrub Nurse
    • Mat Martin
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
  • 0
  • 484
“Theatres can be very overwhelming, especially when you don’t know who everyone is and what their roles are.”

Amira takes us through the staff that make up an Operating Theatre and lets you know who will be there when you first arrive.

Topics covered in this article

Introduction

Who’s In The Theatre?

What Does Everybody Do?

Parting Thoughts

Introduction

I thought this would be an informative and interesting piece for you all to read, because I know how daunting it can be when you’re new to theatres and you are greeted by numerous people.

Theatres can be very overwhelming, especially when you don’t know who everyone is and what their roles are.

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Who’s In The Theatre?

Theatres often have a set group of staff.

There will be 2 Scrub Nurses (one scrub and one circulating), 1 ODP (Operating Department Practitioner), up to 2 Anaesthetists, up to 2 members of theatre support workers and up to 3 Surgeons.

The number of staff will depend on the speciality and how heavy the list is.

On top of this, you’ll have extra people in the theatre such as Radiology, Clinical Photography and students.

Most theatres have a coloured hat system so you can identify who’s who.

For example, in my hospital if you go in a theatre and you see a member of staff wearing a red hat, you know they are the team leader.

The team leader is someone who manages the theatre and the list, you’d often go to them with any queries or questions you have.

What Does Everybody Do?

Scrub Nurses

You have two Scrub Nurses in one theatre as one will scrub for the procedure, and one will circulate.

I won’t go too much into detail of the role of a scrub nurse as I have dedicated an entire article to this job.

Scrub Nurses are a part of the surgical team and work in the sterile field. Whereas the circulating Nurse works outside of the sterile field, they will assist the surgical team by grabbing any pieces of extra equipment needed during the surgery such as sutures and completing swab checks.

Both Nurses are expected to come at the start of the list and ensure the theatre is in working order and check that the correct trays and equipment is ready for the list.

TSWs (theatre support workers)

I honestly believe that our support workers are the unsung heroes of theatres. TSWs (theatre support workers) can help transport patients from the ward to theatres and from the theatre to recovery.

In addition to this, TSWs also manage the theatre to ensure that it is well stocked of things such as sutures, syringes and swabs.

They also assist in the clean up and tidy of theatre before and after procedures. TSWs can also complete swab checks with the Scrub Nurse.

An essential role that TSWs also carry out is that they can run blood gasses and collect blood products that may be needed during the procedure.

TSWs can also collect and record any samples or specimens that come out during the procedure.

ODPs (operating department practitioner)

ODPs can carry out all three roles in theatres (scrub, anaesthetics and recovery). For this article we will focus on the ODPs on anaesthetics side.

The ODP is responsible for checking the anaesthetic machines, ventilators, vital signs monitoring monitor, intravenous equipment, airway equipment and ensure they’re in correct working order before the start of every list.

They are also in charge ordering and checking drugs.

When the patient first arrives in the anaesthetic room the ODP will check them in, check their wristband and check the consent form so we can start the procedure without any hiccups.

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As they get the patient ready for recovery the ODP will reassure the patient and try to keep them calm.

The ODP will also assist the anaesthetist whilst they anaesthetise the patient by preparing drugs and helping with the airway.

ODPs can also cannulate patients in the anaesthetic room to ensure they have IV access. Also, during the surgery the ODP will monitor the patient’s vital signs.

Post-surgery the ODP assists the Anaesthetist when the patient is emerging from anaesthetisa.

Anaesthetists

Often times in theatres you can have up to 2 Anaesthetists.

This is because there can be an Anaesthetist Registrar and a Consultant Anaesthetist.

The role of an Anaesthetist is to provide anaesthetisia and pain management before, during and post-surgery.

Their other key responsibilities are: getting patients ready for the procedure, intensive medicine, resuscitation and stabilisation of patients in need of emergency care.

They also monitor the patients vital monitoring signs and administer drugs when needed.

They can also insert central lines to ensure there is access for IV drugs. Watching an anaesthetist anaesthetise a patient is actually so interesting.

This is because they create a personalised formula of drugs to anaesthetise a patient with.

Every patient is different so their care is always personalised and tailored to them.

Surgeon

In theatres it’s rare to ever find one Surgeon working on their own on a list unless it is an incredible light list (e.g. hernia list).

There’s normally always two surgeons to a list (a Consultant and a Registrar) sometimes in spinal surgery we have three Surgeons due to the complexity of the cases.

Before the patients come to theatre, they speak to the patient and their parents or guardians. They inform them of the procedure they’ll have done ensure they have a consent form signed.

During this time, the Surgeon will inform them of the benefits and any risks of the procedure.

This is essential as we need to have informed consent before starting any procedure.

Surgeons are responsible for informing the surgical team of any special or particular equipment they may need during the procedure; this is often done during team brief.

The Surgeon is responsible for performing the procedure and maintaining a sterile field.

They’re also responsible for remaining calm and composed during the case in the case of things not going well.

This is essential as they will need to remain level headed so they can manage any possible bleeds.

The job of a Surgeon doesn’t end when the patient leaves the operating room. Managing post-operative recovery and follow-up care is also part of the job description.

Parting Thoughts

I hope this article helps in clarifying the roles of each member of the Theatre team.

Without all of them, there is no way that an operating theatre could function effectively.

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Do you have any questions for Amira?

Ask below

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About the author

  • Amira Begum
    Scrub Nurse

I’m Amira, I qualified as an Adult Nurse over a year ago and I have been working in theatres since qualifying. I am an adult trained nurse working in a paediatric hospital. I specialise in spines, trauma and orthopaedics. Outside of work I am a keen baker and fitness enthusiast.

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  • Amira Begum
    Scrub Nurse

About the author

  • Amira Begum
    Scrub Nurse

I’m Amira, I qualified as an Adult Nurse over a year ago and I have been working in theatres since qualifying. I am an adult trained nurse working in a paediatric hospital. I specialise in spines, trauma and orthopaedics. Outside of work I am a keen baker and fitness enthusiast.

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