1950s nursing - page 7

I would love to hear how a nurses day went in the 1940s,50s, early 60s. Any major differences between now and then...any good stories to share?... Read More

  1. by   NYERNURSE
    This isn't the 1950's but things have changed a lot since the 70's.

    In 1972 I went to my family doctor with abdominal pain. I was 10. The doc was a chain smoker and I remember him blowing smoke in my mother's face as he said "I can tell by how she's walking that she has appendicitis." Mom practically carried me across the street to the hospital. I sat in the ER for 7 hours in excruciating pain. I finally went to the OR to take care of a burst appendix. I was hospitalized for 10 days. The surgeon placed my NGT and IV's. The residents and interns changed my IV fluid bottles and antibiotics. Nurses didn't touch it. The docs gave me a bag of orange IV fluid. I think they said it was protein but I thought it was orange crush soda.

    By day 3 I felt much better and very much enjoyed the wheelchair races with the other kids down the long hallways. I received a backrub every morning and evening without fail from the nice nurse. A hippy young resident came into my room POD # 3 and gave me a bottle of a weird yellow-green drink..."new on the market" he exclaimed.."It does a great job of rehydrating pts" he told my mom. It was gatorade. The surgeon told me it was made from Louisiana gator and I believed him. The drink was written as an order in my chart. He also told me that if I got well enough to go home that he would buy me a pizza. He kept his promise.

    I remember that a kid across the hall died. The docs and nurses all stayed with the family for hours while they cried and hollered. It was heartbreaking. I can't imagine doctors doing that today.

    After insurance the bill my father received was 25 bucks...it covered everything.
  2. by   pickledpepperRN
    Quote from KRVRN
    Ok, a question... how the heck did nurses and doctors take a blood pressure before velcro was invented?
    The BP cuffs had flat hooks and button holes. We got the closest fit we could.
  3. by   colrainrn
    Today we had a Ethics retreat day at our hospital...I guess I could post this anywhere but some of its relevant(and Im the original poster.
    One of our "seasoned nurses" as she likes to be called told of how MD and Nurse used to get along...How a chair would be given to the doc upon arrival, howMDs would send the nurse off the floor if her hat was crooked or if she had a run in her leggings. They said their was no direct communication to nurses but if a doc had a problem he followed the chain of command and reported you to the head nurse who reported it to the director who called you in to discuss the issue maybe a week later.
    there were two wards..male and female 10 patients each. No shipping patients out in our small community hospital..gunshots, heart probs all were dealt with. No first names were used to address docs or nurses. There was a heirarchy for sure.
    A doc responded by saying that some of that was good because now its hard to tell who is caring for patients because staff comes and goes...its hard to know if the nurse is accurate, trustworthy, and level headed or if he/she is an alarmist who makes poor decisions at times...and he states he must be a hard *** about stuff because its his practice on the line. Another doc says he always feels bad about approaching nurses for discussion because we always seem busy to the point of overwhelmed.
    We spoke some of how in the old days the patient wasnt told all that much..today they come in with internet knowledge, television knowledge etc. Lastly for now..one older nurse brought in this cool sign that said "Patient Rules...Keep your feet off the bed, make your bed if you are able, and two other things I didnt get a good look at. Replies are welcome
  4. by   Jamesdotter
    Re: the BP cuffs before velcro. Ours were long tapered sleeves that we wrapped around the extremity like a bandage and tucked in the end.
  5. by   rach_nc_03
    Quote from sbic56
    I miss the smell of tincture of benzoin!
    the nurses on my unit use tincture of benzoin swabs a lot to anchor rectal bags. the smell of it makes me sick!!:stone
  6. by   LPNer
    Quote from KRVRN
    Ok, a question... how the heck did nurses and doctors take a blood pressure before velcro was invented?
    Been there done that!
    The cuff was quite long and it wrapped around until it wasa several layers thick around the arm, then inflate and take blood pressure as you do now with a stethescope. The whole thing did not inflate, I suppose being wrapped so many times around the arm didn't allow for inflation at the far end of the cuff.
  7. by   sbic56
    Quote from rach_nc_03
    the nurses on my unit use tincture of benzoin swabs a lot to anchor rectal bags. the smell of it makes me sick!!:stone
    Hehehe...you'd have hated most hospitals in the 60's then, as that is the first thing you could smell when you walked in! (Maybe earlier, but I only remember as far back as the '60's. :wink2: )
  8. by   jyoung1950
    I was born in 1950; when either my sister or I got sick, Mom would call Dr. Mowry and he would come over to the house with his black medical bag to see us.

    Cost $3.00 if you went to his office; $5.00 if he came to the house.

    Mowry's office sounds alot like your doctor's. His was in his home. He didn't have a nurse though.

    I don't remember how my parents handled payment to him. I don't even know if Dad had health insurance at the company he worked at.

    I do know that my parents didn't have to spend a quarter of their time on paperwork of all sorts and kinds that I do today. :angryfire
  9. by   ~Kitty~
    Quote from LPNer
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KRVRN
    Ok, a question... how the heck did nurses and doctors take a blood pressure before velcro was invented?


    Been there done that!
    The cuff was quite long and it wrapped around until it wasa several layers thick around the arm, then inflate and take blood pressure as you do now with a stethescope. The whole thing did not inflate, I suppose being wrapped so many times around the arm didn't allow for inflation at the far end of the cuff.

    This must be what you are talking about. My husband also thinks buckles were used?

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...sPageName=WDVW
    Last edit by ~Kitty~ on Apr 5, '05
  10. by   michelleicu
    Quote from NurseFirst
    I don't recall how he represented nurses, but a wonderful author, Frank G. Slaughter, MD, wrote novels over many decades and his novels would always describe the "cutting edge" in medicine.

    Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, I can tell you that
    * temperatures were taken with mercury thermometers which were kept in cups of isopropyl alcohol. This was one of the the things which gave a characteristic smell to physicians' offices. (Rectal and oral thermometers were kept separate; the rectal thermometers having, I believe, a blue top and the oral ones a red top.
    * I remember getting a shot from a re-usable glass syringe, the needle sterilized between uses via flame.
    * ICUs and public CPR did not come into existance until the 1960s.
    * Personal Protective Equipment really didn't come into its own until the 1980s, after the AIDs epidemic. There were NOT glove boxes in every room.
    * IVs came in glass bottles.
    If you have seen "The Graduate", you will remember that Dustin Hoffman was given one word of advice, "plastics". That was in the early 1960s; much of the use of plastics and disposable medical equipment did not exist. I remember as a paramedic in 1977-1978, most hospitals had IV solutions in bottles; plastic IV bags were just starting to come in.
    * NSAIDs did not exist
    * Antibiotics primarily consisted of penicillin.
    * Polio vaccine did not come in until the 1950s.
    * Nurses generally wore white dress uniforms with their white nursing caps.
    * I'm not sure when nurses started regularly using stethoscopes, but it must have been during this time.
    * if you can find any of the old Dr. Kildare or Ben Casey series, that would give you some idea of the hospitals of the early '60s.
    * triage nurses did not exist in ERs.
    * personal computers, and therefore desktop computers, did not come into existance until the late 1970s (at the earliest; IBM first's entry was in 1981--which was the microcomputer businesses finally were willing to take a chance on--evolving into "wintel" machines. However, the graphical user interface did not appear on microcomputers until 1984, with the advent of the Macintosh, introduced with a very famous Super Bowl commercial, where "1984 will not be like 1984"--or something to that effect. It was not only a sentinel commercial for microcomputers, but also for superbowl commercials.
    * color tvs did not come into existance until the 1960s.
    * miniaturization and computers, velcro, etc., were all benefits of the space race and John F. Kennedy's decision to go to the moon; many of these things made the modern critical care units possible.
    * zip codes and area codes did not exist. I know in the 1950s you had to contact a long distance operator to make a long distance call. Since cell phones did not exist, and no monitoring equipment, people didn't worry about cell phone usage in critical care units
    * Fathers did not go into labor and delivery with their wives.
    * People would get admitted to the hospital to run tests, because insurance would cover hospitalization; otherwise the tests were not covered.
    * X-rays and stethoscopes were the typical "diagnostic" equipment. There wa a lot more "hands on" doctoring, and emphasis on diagnosing based upon what the physician saw, heard, felt, smelled...and I'm not sure when physicians stopped tasting urine (don't know if it was before or after the 1940s) for diabetes.
    * specialization had not really hit medicine; most docs were "gp"s -- general practitioners; there also, of course, was no such thing as advanced practice nurses.

    That's all I can think of/have time for at the moment...

    Hope that helps...

    NurseFirst
    doctors had to taste urine for diabetes check?that is so like fear factor!
  11. by   michelleicu
    Quote from RainbowSkye
    When I was about nine years old my mom bought a huge box of Cherry Ames books at a yard sale. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. And I wanted to go to a diploma nursing program just like Cherry.

    Let's see: there were about fifty students in my class. All female, no men allowed. No one could be married. Everyone had to live in the nursing dorm which was attached to the hospital by a tunnel. We had two housemothers who lived on the first floor (by the exits) and we had very strict curfews (most of us complained it was worse than our parents' curfews at home). We could have visitors of the opposite sex only at certain times, and they were not allowed in the dorm rooms (as a matter of fact, bells were rung when the maintenance men needed to come up to the living areas for some reason and everyone would holler "Man on the Floor"). There was a nice little visiting area with a fireplace, couches and a tv right outside one of the housemother's room where you could meet with your sweetie.

    Freshman year we all went to the local university for classes in the morning - anatomy, physiology, micro, psych... Afternoon classes were in the basement of the dorm. There were several classrooms down there, a nursing arts lab and an auditorium. The first semester we studied Nursing Arts I learning how to make beds (with the bottom sheet seam down and the top sheet seam up, and of course with the pillow case opening facing away from the door), how to give bed baths and backrubs. In Nursing Arts II we learned how to give po, sub-q and IM injections and other more complicated nursing procedures.

    After successfully completing our first semester we had a capping ceremony in the dorm basement. All family and friends were invited (and actually came - this was a big deal). We got a plain white cap at this time. After finisihing our second semester we got a thin black velvet band for our cap (at our black banding ceremony).

    For our Junior year (no Soph. because the program was three years) we divided into four groups and started clinicals. If I remember correctly we had Medical, Surgical, Operating Room and Psych. 12 weeks each. Four hours of class on Monday and Tuesday morning (afternoons to study) and then eight hours of clinical on Wed, Thurs and Fri. We had to go to the hospital Tuesday afternoon for our assignments so we could work on med cards and care plans. After this year we got a fat black band for our caps.

    Finally Senior year. Same schedule as our Jr. year but now we did Peds, OB, Leadership and a course that was kind of a combination of out-patient and home health nursing/Intensive Care Nursing (six weeks of each as I recall). We were very lucky to have an Intensive Care class as most hospitals in the area didn't have dedicated ICUs at the time and ours did.

    Even though this was about 35 years ago, I still feel grateful for my initial nursing education. My old school is no longer in operation. Time marches on.

    Thanks for the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane.
    and how much did nursing school cost back then for the three years that you went?
  12. by   RainbowSkye
    Quote from michelleicu
    and how much did nursing school cost back then for the three years that you went?
    Well, we had to pay tuition to the local university for the first two terms - I think that was $300/term. And $200 for the nursing classes the first year.

    Junior and senior year: $100/quarter.

    Grand total: $1600 for my entire three year education. And this included transportation to the university and any off-hospital clinical sites (we did our psych rotation at a big county facility), books, uniforms and cap, dorm room, food and a pair of bandage scissors. Oh, also my gold nursing school pin at graduation.

    I know, life has changed.

    I graduated in 1974.
  13. by   allamericangirl
    Back in those days (the 50s and 60s) my Dad had what they called Major Medical Insurance and it had a deductable, something like $200. It covered anything that you had to go to have surgery for from Tonsillectomy, Appendicitis, Heart Attacks, or Cancer care, and accidents like broken bones. You could afford to pay out of your pocket for a doctor's office visit and injections, and vaccinations back then!! It's ridiculous today. A visit to your local doc will run about $145.00 to $195.00 here in the Denver area, and there are no walk in clinics where you can go in and be seen for a cold or the flu for a few bucks. Twelve years ago before we moved to Denver, I lived a short time in the St. Louis area and there was a chain of walk in clinics there where you could go for $25.00 and get checked out and buy your antibiotics from them too and they were very reasonable. I don't know if it is just Denver that has nothing like that or if it is like this all over now! You know that the insurance companies don't pay Drs $145 to $200 for an office visit! And then there is the cost of RX! You could get Penicillin for your infection for $2. to $5. I thought that an expensive med back then was about $20. :angryfire

    Quote from jyoung1950
    I was born in 1950; when either my sister or I got sick, Mom would call Dr. Mowry and he would come over to the house with his black medical bag to see us.

    Cost $3.00 if you went to his office; $5.00 if he came to the house.

    Mowry's office sounds alot like your doctor's. His was in his home. He didn't have a nurse though.

    I don't remember how my parents handled payment to him. I don't even know if Dad had health insurance at the company he worked at.

    I do know that my parents didn't have to spend a quarter of their time on paperwork of all sorts and kinds that I do today. :angryfire

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