Nightingale F. Notes on nursing.London: Scutari Press; 1869

Shields L, Watson R. The demise of nursing in the United Kingdom: a warning for medicine. J R Soc Med. 2007; 100:(2)70-74

Unity of modern-day theatre professions

25 April 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 8

There is a dearth of publications on the history of theatre nursing within the UK, but the earliest reference is in Florence Nightingale's Notes on Nursing (1868).

She described being instructed on ‘how to wait at operations’ and as to ‘the kind of aid the surgeon requires at her hands.’ The history of the operating department practitioner (ODP) is also concealed within other titles of theatre personnel, including handlers, surgery-men, box carriers and beadles, all appearing in notes from the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1947, theatre technicians were being trained at St Thomas' Hospital, with the number of nurses choosing to work within the operating theatre slowly increasing. Theatre nurse Daisy Ayris founded the National Association of Theatre Nurses (NATN) in 1964. At the inaugural meeting, 235 members had enrolled and by 1966 their 1000th member had joined.

In 1970, the Lewin Report on the staffing and organisation of operating theatres was released by the Department of Health and Social Care, with the ultimate aim of addressing the national shortage of theatre staff. This initiated the city and guilds certificate training of operating department assistants (ODAs), who would predominantly work within an anaesthetic role. The change of professional name to ODP came in 1991, with the training moving to a formalised NVQ level 3 qualification. In 2000, the training was again developed to a Diploma of Higher Education level, with a national register of the Association of ODPs following a year later. In 2004, ODPs became regulated with the Health and Care Professions Council, and most recently in 2017, the profession was taken in under the umbrella of allied health professions.

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