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Nursing: Then and Now

The nursing profession, as a whole, as well as the role of the nurse have evolved dramatically over the past several decades. I personally have witnessed the changing face of nursing during my 30+ years in the profession. Gone are the days when nurses were thought of as little more than helpers or assistants for physicians. Today’s nurses are healthcare professionals in their own right, playing an important and vital role in providing excellent healthcare.

Nursing: Then and Now

The nursing profession, as a whole, as well as the role of the nurse have evolved dramatically over the past several decades. I personally have witnessed the changing face of nursing during my 30+ years in the profession. Gone are the days when nurses were thought of as little more than helpers or assistants for physicians. Today’s nurses are healthcare professionals in their own right, playing an important and vital role in providing excellent healthcare.

Looking back to when I was in nursing school, and then starting my nursing career, I remember many things that are no longer in use, or things that have transformed over the years. Gone are the days of paper chart, replaced with electronic medical records. Gone are the nursing caps that distinguished the nurse from the rest of the healthcare team.

Here is a partial list of things I remember from days gone by.

Back in the day…..

  • Team nursing
  • Primary care nursing
  • Longer patient stays (Patients were actually able to recuperate in the hospital rather than being sent home too soon. There was no such thing as same-day surgery.)
  • Nurses wore uniforms which consisted of white dresses, white hose, white lace up oxford shoes, and, of course……….white nursing caps!
  • Only OR staff and physicians wore scrubs.
  • The Kardex, a large folded card, was used as an important document of all patient activities, meds, etc. And it was hand-written in pencil so it could be erased and updated as needed. Talk about document tampering!
  • Requisitions were composed on a typewriter.
  • Patients were called Mr. or Mrs.
  • Gloves were used for sterile procedures only. Universal precautions did not exist.
  • The only lifting machines we had we male aides…….and of course ourselves.
  • Nurses bent and broke off needles from used syringes
  • IV pumps were used only in Peds and ICU. Nurses had to calculate the drip rate using the second hand on their watch and a roller clamp to regulate the flow.
  • Heavy glass IV bottles were still in use
  • The charge nurse made rounds with the doctors……..and carried the heavy metal charts.
  • When a doctor arrived at the nurses’ station, it was expected that a nurse would stand up and offer her seat….and the doctor never refused
  • Male nurses were very rare
  • Cold metal bedpans were offered to patients.
  • All patients were offered a daily bath and back rub
  • There were no fitted sheets. Remember hospital corners??
  • Glass thermometers were still in use.
  • Nurses notes and vital signs were recorded using pen with 4 colors of ink as different colors of ink were used on different shifts. Actually only 3 were used since there were 3 shifts.
  • Surgery patients were admitted the night before surgery so their preps could be started that evening.
  • Nurses smoked in the nurses’ lounge.
  • Cancer was most always a death sentence
  • Medicine was dispensed by the med nurse carrying a tray with small paper cups of pills and different colored med cards.
  • Four-year BSN programs were not as plentiful. Most nurses graduated from hospital-based Diploma or ASN programs.
  • State boards were 2 grueling days of exams that were completed with number 2 pencils. No computerized tests in those days.

Feel free to add items that you remember from the past, even if that past does not seem that long ago. Changes are occurring at an even faster pace in the digital and electronic age of today. What do you think of some of the changes???

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