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Operating department practitioners and midwives: The undervalued obstetric care collaboration

02 November 2018
13 min read
Volume 26 · Issue 11


More than one-quarter of births in the UK are reported to be by caesarean section, requiring the skills and expertise of operating department practitioners (ODPs) and midwives, an often-overlooked care collaboration. This reflective case study looks back at an experience that the author, a registered ODP, had as a third-year student. It provides an example of how a lack of understanding of roles and poor interprofessional communication between the midwife and postoperative practitioner detrimentally affected a woman's care. The aim is to demonstrate areas for improvement and make recommendations highlighting the need for inclusive education and learning in perioperative obstetric care.

During a caesarean birth, the midwifery team is required to work with multiple professions as part of a unique team dynamic (Chief Nursing Officers of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 2010; Hewitt, 2014). This includes operating department practitioners (ODPs), who work as peri- and postoperative practitioners, a working relationship that is seldom acknowledged or considered in the literature. This is demonstrated by the Midwifery 2020 document (Chief Nursing Officers of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 2010), which does not mention ODPs in its list of interprofessional collaborations involving midwives.

Evidence from government reports and reviews suggests that unsuccessful collaboration and a lack of a collegial culture between professions in surgical obstetrics significantly affects patient safety (Kirkup, 2015; Helmond et al, 2015; Knight et al, 2016; Symon, 2016). Accordingly, this evidence demonstrates that it is no longer safe or appropriate for health professionals to simply use their individual skills to achieve a common goal. More than one-quarter of births in the UK are reported to be by caesarean section (Norman et al, 2018), requiring the skills and expertise of ODPs and midwives. With numbers of caesarean sections rising annually (Chief Nursing Officers of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 2010), the need to improve interprofessional teamwork and relations between the two professions to maintain patient safety in obstetrics has never been greater (Winter, 2015).

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