I'm only relating my experiences here, others may differ. When I was a new grad in 1980, here was my typical shift:
I would be the team leader for a 15 patient team. I would take 2 or 3 patients to give complete care to (bath, bed change, dressings, feeding, turning, etc), and I would divide up the remaining patients between the LPN and nursing assistant according to the skill level required for the patients' needs. The LPN charted on her patients, plus 1/2 of the NA's patients, I would chart on the rest. I would pass meds on the entire team, and be responsible for IV maintenence/restart, signing off and implementing or delegating tasks, calling physicians for orders or to report lab results/test results, updating the Kardex, etc. LPN's would do limited assessments on their patients, I would do assessments of lungs, heart, etc on the more complex patients. It seems the nursing staff worked more like a team then: we often made rounds together and turned, cleaned, changed beds, did dressing changes, etc.
We didn't have flowsheets or computers for charting so everything was written in narrative form. No IV pumps, so you had to stand there and count drops per minute every hour to ensure flow rate was correct. No electronic thermometers or vital sign monitors either- I remember going down the line, putting glass thermometers in the patients' mouths, then going back around and taking them out and reading them.
Some patients were admitted for "tests" and were pretty easy to care for, others were much sicker. Paperwork was the RN's responsibility, and since there were no computers there was alot of it. No PCA pumps, had to give alot of IM/IV narcs as I worked an ortho floor. No computers for order entry, the clerical tech made out paper reqs, then put them in the chart for the nurse to double-check and sign off on. When I worked 11-7, it was our job to re-copy the MAR's by hand (no computer generated ones).
I don't think in our hospital the physician/nurse relationship was much different then- they still acted pompous and irritating!
I remember some docs throwing things at nurses, yelling at them, threatening to report them to administration....sound familiar? We just blew them off and made fun of them when they left.
So I don't know that it was so much better then, just different.