ODPs Maree and Mark O'Neill.jpgMaree's story

Maree O’Neill and her son, Mark, are keeping it in the family working as Operating Department Practitioners at West Cumberland Hospital.

Maree moved to Cumbria from Scotland in 1989 with a young family. 

She said: “I did not have a support network so concentrated in settling my family in to our new life in Cumbria.  A few years later I trained as a pharmacy technician and worked in a family run Pharmacy. I had a discussion with one of my regular clients who was a recovery nurse in Theatres at WCH and she informed me that the department were currently looking to recruit Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs.)”

Intrigued, Maree researched the role of an ODP.

She said: “I decided to contact the Theatre department to ask if I could spend a few hours speaking to staff. I also attended an open day at the hospital and subsequently decided to apply, where I was successful. I attended the University Of Central Lancashire (UCLan) for the three year Diploma course. I then went on to gain my BSc (Hons) Degree and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Acute and Critical Care with the University of Cumbria (UoC).”

Maree now works as a senior ODP in Theatres at West Cumberland Hospital.

She said: “My main discipline is anaesthetics but I am fully trained in recovery and surgical. I am also the Education Facilitator for the department and I have a close working relationship with UCLan and UoC. I am in a privileged position which enables me to assist in the development of the next generation of healthcare professionals. The Apprenticeships available for staff are developing our future workforce.”

ODPs work in three key areas; anaesthetics, surgery and recovery. They will monitor the patient’s physiological parameters, providing appropriate interventions and treatment until the patient has recovered from the effects of the anaesthesia and/or surgery and is stable.

Maree says she enjoys her role immensely as every day is a ‘school day’ in the Theatre department. 

She said: “I also thrive on the challenges involved in my role, such as working in Maternity, A&E (RESUS) and recently the COVID surges, which entailed the Theatre department being transformed into an ICU. This brought together teamwork and the opportunity to learn new skills. It was intense, stressful and emotionally draining but I gained more confidence in my skills and knowledge and respect for my colleagues, as we all pulled together in difficult and unfamiliar circumstances.

“Mark is extremely proficient and professional in his role. Our working relationship has caused some problems at home as we do emergency out of hours cover and my poor husband and Mark's father was often woken by one of us being called out through the night!

“The benefits are that we can always help one another out with shift swaps. He is now married with a home of his own and has given us a beautiful grandson. 

“I also have to mention that although we are mother and son working in the same discipline and department, we are always professional when caring for patients and working with other colleagues. I am also a very proud mother, as Mark is well respected in the department and has a caring, humorous nature.”

Mark's storyODP Mark O'Neill.JPG

After sixth form Mark graduated and applied for an ODP course at UCLAN. He studied for three years and qualified and has worked in the Anaesthetic department within the operating theatres for the past 13 years.

He said: “My role is ever changing to meet the needs of the department, be it working in the theatres or working in critical care situations in areas such as A&E (Resus), ITU, intubations on the ward and maternity emergency sections, also not forgetting transferring critically ill patients in the back of ambulances to various hospitals.

“I have been performing the role of ODP for 13 years and I am still as enthused about my work today as I was when I was 18 and fresh faced. No day is the same and this is especially the case when working out of hours as anything can come through the hospital doors, a bit of black humour helps to keep the days ticking by as well.”

And Mark says working with mum Maree “has its perks”.

He said: “I am lucky/unlucky enough to work in the same department as my mum who is also an ODP. It has its perks as I rarely struggle to get a shift swapped and I know I can count on her in difficult situations. We are consummate professionals and even though we have dealt with some awful situations in our roles over the years, we always leave work at work as family time outside of the hospital is important.”

Mark says the best part of his role is collaborating with his fellow colleagues in the theatre multidisciplinary team. 

He said: “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without everyone else working to such a high standard of care and professionalism, this was most recently highlighted during the Covid pandemic and subsequent Covid surges where me and my theatre colleagues joined forces with other departments to provide the best competent care for all our patients.”

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