Transforming the student’s experience in operating department practice
: learning through simulation

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The provision of high quality medical and surgical care is predicated by high quality education and training. This enables staff to respond more effectively and flexibly and is crucial when considering the various factors impacting upon the delivery of patient care. The development and training of all healthcare students and staff is an important factor in ensuring patient safety and self satisfaction, and relies on understanding the needs of learners as well as the way in which they learn. This fundamental training and education is no less pertinent in the perioperative environment, where high impact interventions are performed by Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs), and where patient safety and the quality of care must be paramount. This is due to the often difficult and potentially dangerous surgical and anaesthetic interventions on elective, unscheduled or critically ill patients.

The aim of this programme of research was to investigate the effectiveness of ‘traditional’ lecture/placement provision in ODP education, resulting in the implementation and evaluation of a revised curriculum that integrates simulation based teaching and learning for this group of allied health professionals at the University of Portsmouth.

This programme of research used a mixed methods QUAL + quant approach on multiple purposive and convenient samples of ODP students and placement education managers. Drawing on phenomenographic methodology, the interpretivist studies used semi-structured interviews and focus groups to investigate the understanding and perceptions of learning from those with relevant lived experiences. Furthermore, a positivist study was conducted to analyse and further understand the effectiveness of different teaching methods. The results from these studies informed a revision of the traditional ODP curriculum, based upon a nursing conceptual framework that included the integration of simulation-based learning.

A total of five studies were conducted, beginning with individual semi-structured interviews with 12, second year ODP students investigating perceived enablers and barriers to traditional learning using lectures in University and placement learning in the hospital environment. Study Two continued with a positivist study on a cohort of first year ODP students, which investigated the effectiveness of three types of teaching. The results of these first two studies informed a revision of the traditional ODP curriculum to integrate simulation-based learning. The revised curriculum was subsequently evaluated using focus group interviews and follow up interviews, with 30 first year ODP students. Finally, a focus group interview with 12 clinical educators that are responsible for the clinical placement learning for ODPs was conducted to gather their perceptions of the revised curriculum, and the clinical performance of the students. This led to the development of a conceptual framework to inform the integration of simulation-based learning into future ODP courses.

The results of this research demonstrate that simulation-based learning for this professional group of ODP learners showed an encouraging trend in its effectiveness compared to other teaching methods. The revised curriculum encouraged higher order learning and mitigated to some extent the challenges faced by the NHS and placement educators. In addition, revising the ODP curriculum was evaluated positively by participants and clinical educators and tackled challenges such as inequity of learning opportunity and exposure to a diverse range of patient groups, that learners often face when undertaking learning on clinical placement. The conceptual framework designed to inform the curriculum identified specific areas for consideration when integrating simulation-based education into the ODP curriculum. However, further development and comparison of the conceptual framework reported here and a larger cross-university sample is needed to confirm its reliability and validity.

Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorChris Markham (Supervisor)

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