So what WAS nursing like in the "good old days"? - page 2

by findingmywayRN 5,405 Views | 29 Comments

Ever since I was in nursing school a few years ago all I heard was how much nusing has changed since the 60's/70's/80's. My only frame of refrence for this time period is Dixie from EMERGENCY! (LOL) I know that nurses did a lot... Read More


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    The smallest needle available for insulin for people with diabetes was a 19 or 20 gauge. That's the gauge insulin neeles were always made in. OW! Imagine the scar tissue they formed! Course, I recall my grandma boiling hers to sterilize them!
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    I can remember in nursing school getting a lecture about using gloves- if we wiped our own butts without gloves, why would we use them with our patients- just wash your hands! Of course there were only sterile gloves available, and maybe one box of nonsterile for the whole unit.

    I also remember as a student having the bedpan sterilizer blow a gasket when I used it. Steam and water all over the dirty utility room- so embarassing to have to 'fess up.
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    It is amazing to read all of your experiences! Thanks for sharing them. I can't believe how different things were - COUNTING the drips on all the IV's??? NO GLOVES???? I can't imagine life before universal precautions. Were they still strict with handwashing proceedures? I can't believe doctors got away with throwing things at the nurses. And mercury thermometers? OMG!
    To think that anyone with more than basic trappings (IV, Foley, etc.) would require intensive care is hard to imagine. And to think multisystem organ failure is a new phenomenon....Nowadays the basic medsurg floor is like an ICU.


    It seems like some things would be nice to still have - like feeling like a million bucks after your shift because you felt like you made a difference, being able to take a patient outside in a wheel chair, etc. Sounds like the HMO's have really changed this type of patient care for good. If anyone else has experiences they want to post I'd love to keep reading these fascinating stories!

    P.S.: What is "twilight sleep"? I"m afraid to ask
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    canoehead: Yikes...I remember that argument about not using gloves to clean pts.

    Back in the late 70's when I worked as an aide, the other aides used to take pts. dentures out barehanded...that always grossed me out. They used to make fun of me for gloving, but I didn't care.
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    30 year long timer here.

    I remember about 5 years ago we had need of a metal bedpan for a morbidly obese lady. NO one had any idea where to get it. Finally one older doctor suggested the warehouse of a closed hospital. There they were along with the crank beds, chart carousels and dressing carts.

    My med surg book was written in the early 60's. 10th graders probably know more anatomy than was included in that book. My pharmacology book was about an inch thick.

    Mercury thermometers-yes...and if they broke you picked up the mercury and put it down the drain. Some played with it first. Who knew? My first hospital had an isolation ward. It had screen doors....I guess they kept some "bugs" out.....?? You disposed of trash like dressings, waste paper etc by opening a chute straight down to the incinerator....sometimes you saw the actual flames.

    I remember people smiling at me when they learned I was an RN. I went home happy more times than not. I remember having to starch my cap and apron every day....Mama found one of my caps in her freezer some 20 years later......you starched, you dried then you sprinkled before ironing......sometimes you did several ahead of time and kept them in the fridge or freezer.

    No MAR to document meds. First thing in your charting you made a little grid with the med, the time and as you gave them you crossed of that time. FIrst shift charted blue, 2nd red and 3rd green. No worries about not showing up on a photocopy.....no such thing. Narrative charting read like: 8am awake. No complaints ate well. 12noon resting comfortably. 245 pm has had a good day. Of course you charted on all the patients. You and the one other person--LPN or Aide were the staff on 2nd and 3rd. Secretary? You wish!

    My first child was born in 68....her daddy didn't get to touch her for a week......that's how long I stayed....primarily because of the nupercaine spinal that took forever to wear off.

    Second child 70 five days in the hospital. Daddy still couldn't touch him.

    Those were the days my friends.
    DeLanaHarvickWannabe likes this.
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    Canoehead, I can remember being chewed out by my instructor for wearing gloves while cleaning up green diarrhea. The next day the pt's stool report came back positive for shigella! That was in the late 1960's.
    Even in the mid 80's our infection control nurse was telling us not to wear gloves when taking care of HIV pts. She said it was embarrasing to the pt and besides, the only way you could catch it was through homosexual sex. We were also told that we were obliged to give mouth to mouth to a HIV pt who coded if an ambu wasn't immediately available. No way we could catch it. HA!
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by canoehead
    [B]I can remember in nursing school getting a lecture about using gloves- if we wiped our own butts without gloves, why would we use them with our patients- just wash your hands! [QUOTE]


    And we wouldn't want to offend the patient by wearing gloves! It would make them feel bad....

    I remember mixing chemo drugs too without gloves...not good.

    I remember my head nurse was really allowed to be an advocate for her staff and not an administrative pawn. Yes there were still jerky docs, but not as many it seemed...or maybe because we weren't as stressed it didn't bother us as much.

    When census dropped, we all came to work...and deep cleaned the unit, made lists and inventories, chart packs, etc...nobody was canceled. TPTB actually gave us time and staff to DO those extras.

    I kept busy as a medsurg teamleader back in the 70's, but it was not crazy 'putting out fires' busy.

    People in general were less demanding... less Burger King mentality than today...that in itself made our jobs more pleasant.

    Remember the moms admitted to the medsurg unit for 'a rest?'
    (I coulda used one of those at several points too...:chuckle )
    Last edit by mattsmom81 on Jan 26, '04
    DeLanaHarvickWannabe likes this.
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    1980: LPN: worked under direct supervision of RN. Did po, IM, sub-q meds, monitored IV's, had pumps, did dressing changes, gave baths, C,T,DB was standard teaching for all patients, activity was ordered by DR and was strictly observed. I & O was always observed and charted. Had flow sheets, and did soap charting on essential changes, Rn would sign behind. CNA, LPN, and RN for 12 to 15 patients LOVED IT
    1985: RN, moved up to all assessments of patients, IV sticks, hanging IV bags, IV meds, monitored labs, called DR for critical changes, instigated new orders, monitored wounds, usually helped with baths, assisted with feeding, walked patient after surgery first time, monitored LPN and CNA. Still had 12 to 15 patients, called team nursing and we did work as team. LPN and CNA knew their jobs, no fussing over who did what or would do what. If LPN did not know how to do something and CNA did, then CNA did it! Charted flow sheet, soap or narrative note for unusual not regular care. Still loved it!
    2003: Computer charting, unit dose, universal precautions, still monitor labs and call Dr, still assess patients heart and lungs, still instigate new orders, less time for teaching, less time for giving personal care and talking with patient and family regarding home care. Case manager dumps her work load on primary RN, CNA and LPN do not know jobs, other RN's usually have under 5 years of experience so do not know how to insert and check NG tube, or chest tube, or suprapubic cath change, or stick difficult IV. Charge nurse in meetings several times a day. No help with patient going down tubes. lHN no longer advocate for staff and patients, patient is customer, thinks staff is at beck and call and does not follow Dr orders. SUE happy patients, unsupportative administrators, Dr wants to make money and DO NOT CALL AFTER 1100PM orders standard. Still love nursing, just trying to find a place where I can practice the "Art of Nursing". Patient ratio is 6 but ends up 8 or 10 because patients are sent home sicker, new admits, and helping other younger nurses.
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    It's not my story, I just graduated a few years ago. But my Grandmother who started nursing in 1932 has told me some doozies.

    First she not only looked after her patients but also washed the windows and the floors. The operating room had a window that they kept open for the "nice breeze".

    Also I have a couple of the text books and the nutrition section in one of them includes recipes. Because, of course, the nurses cooked the meals and did the dishes!!!!
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    Gradutated nursing school in 1984- I went to a vocational school while in high school and we were actually taught the curriculum for the AD RN program at the local community college, but being just out of high school the most we could test for was LPN. Our instructors taught us everything they knew and I am grateful. While working nights in a nursing home there was frequently no RN in house to do things an RN was 'supposed' to do, and then there were often times an RN in the house had no idea what to do.( not saying anything against RN's-- have worked with good and bad RN's, LPN's and CNA's over the past 20 years.)
    Gloves were never available, we did baths, tube fdgs, iv's, wound care, laundry, snacks, took orders, checked orders, performed cpr and called 911, prepared the patient for transport and then walked them to the ambulance to make sure they got there ok...
    we never had enough time, enough supplies, enough staff and always had too much to do, too many patients and too many complaints coming our way...
    but we all survived and I can honestly say that some things have gotten better... but then some things have not. I now have all the gloves I could ever want, support staff available if I need them, computers to make my charting easier and a generation of MD's that are more receptive to the ideas and observations of nurses... I also now have too many things to do and not enough time to do them, computers to make life easier and charting more uniform, 101 new generation drugs to have to learn everything about in case a patient has a reaction to one... and a computer that is supposed to make my life easier...
    I am a home care nurse and the best thing that I still have that I had in any job back in the 80's is time to spend with my patients so that I can build a rapport and really get to know them as people and not just as illnesses.


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