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My first year at university: expectation vs reality by Emma Lines

Released on - 14/09/2020

My first year at university: expectation vs reality by Emma Lines

My first year at university: expectation vs reality by Emma Lines

I’m Emma Lines and I’m a student member of AfPP. I’ve just started my second year of a Diploma of Higher Education in Operating Department Practice at Birmingham City University. I attend placement at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley.

Before I started my course last September, I was working as a Theatre Support Worker. Working alongside ODPs on a daily basis helped me to gain a good understanding of the role. I hoped university would provide me with the theory and practical skills required to become a qualified ODP. 

My first year at university really wasn’t as I’d expected! I was concerned before starting the course that I wouldn’t have much in common with the other students. I expected I’d be much older than most of the other students and I’m also a parent.

I needn’t have worried though, my first year was amazing and I can’t wait to continue my learning journey. I’ve learnt so much in just one year, more than I could have ever imagined! I’ve gained a lot of bioscience, anaesthetics and surgical practice knowledge. I’ve also been surprised by the range of different students on my course. They’re a variety of different ages and I’ve made some good friends which wasn’t really what I was expecting. This has meant we study together in our free time, especially when we’re revising for exams. We’re a great support for each other and it’s really enjoyable spending time with people who have the common interest and passion to become an ODP. 

The university has a mock operating theatre which has been fantastic for building my confidence and teaching me skills before attending placement. We even took part in a mock operating theatre list simulation, where we all got to play different roles. Before I started at uni I’d been nervous about going into placement and how I’d approach it but the facilities and the support I’ve received have helped and meant there was nothing to worry about - I’m really enjoying it!

I’ve been surprised by how involved I’ve been able to be whilst on placement. I’d expected that as a first year student I’d be predominantly watching the qualified ODPs. I also wasn’t sure how I’d manage learning across the three areas of scrub, anaesthetics and recovery together. 

In reality though, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to be ‘hands on’ which has been really enjoyable and greatly improved my confidence. Everyone I’ve worked with has been so supportive and given me so much encouragement – it’s been great for my confidence. The placement was divided in to three blocks so we got a set amount of weeks to focus on one area at a time which worked really well. 

I’ve been amazed by how much support there is from tutors and how good the library resources are, to help with academic writing. If I’d known this before I started I wouldn’t have been so nervous!

I say to anyone who wants to work in healthcare and help make a difference to patients, definitely look at becoming an ODP. Especially if you have an interest in the care patients receive during their perioperative journey. 

Previous personal experiences you’ve had where you’ve shown compassion, treated people with dignity and respect or been an advocate for someone, are all relevant to the role of an ODP. These can be helpful experiences to talk about during your personal statement or interview. 

If you decide to become an ODP and get accepted on to a course, my top tip is be organised. I made a plan at the start of the year so I knew assignment deadlines well in advance. This helped me to plan my time efficiently and juggle placements with academic work.

Also, don’t try to rush the time away, enjoy the experience. You have the opportunity to learn so many interesting new things and get to meet some great new people. Make the most of it!

I never believed I could do it, especially with having two children under the age of five. I am already halfway through and its one of the best decisions I have ever made. Sometimes it is difficult writing assignments late at night because I need to wait until the little ones are in bed, however it is completely worth it. 

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