What was it like to be a nurse in the 1980s - page 12

I'm writing a paper for one of my classes. I have to briefly discuss what the role of the nurse was in the 1970s/80s. The only sources I can find talk about events pertaining to nursing in the 1980s.... Read More

  1. by   Nursj68
    I started out as an LPN in '88. 1st pay was......$5.95....
    at tht time I worked w a nurse who'd already bn a nurse for 20+ yrs; and her starting pay was $2 and some change....the eldest nurses who were about to retire so had bn nurses since Th 40s-50s talked about their pay in WEEKLY terms..... Same amts
  2. by   Msterri7441
    My very first nursing job was at Baptist Hospital in Nashville. We wore the hats and whites. Doctors had their own elevator and we were expected to get up when they entered the nurses station. We called each other Mrs or Miss. When I moved to Tampa, I was surprised to see the difference in formality.
    We didn't wear gloves unless it was a sterile procedure and many meds were not locked up or signed out. I remember buretrols and dial-a-flos and primary docs coming in to make rounds. We used black ink only for some reason related to copying charts I think.
    Parents didn't seem as likely to stay with the peds pts and we spent many a night consoling the babies.
  3. by   Chris Love
    I graduated from a 2 year Hospital based program in 1975. Yes, we wore caps and as students wore a blue and white striped uniform. We did personal care, dressings, looked after IV's catheters, removed stitches etc but it was a specialized Nurse who started IV's. We were taught to stand up when a Doctor entered the room. When I graduated, the only job available was on Psychiatry. The Director of Nursing thought I should start on a med Surg Foor but I did get the job. It was the one area I knew the least about. L lot of my classmates went to the USA for jobs. I started work in sept and got laid off in December for a time. It has been ebb and flow ever since.
    we were lucky to be able to transfer to other areas. In 1980 I took part time courses to get my Operating Room Certificate. I worked then on a Med Surg floor and had quite an orientation to relearn my Nursing skills. We had 2 RN's and 2 RPN's on our team and all shared in the work. The Rn in charge did the meds and IV's and shared with treatments. We still wore caps and white uniforms. The Doctor's were respectful during rounds as they relied on our 24 hr care for their information. All paperwork was done on paper! No operations were done by Laparoscopy. That came later so our length of stay for Cholecystectomy was about 3 weeks. Patients would come to hospital the day before surgery to prepare.
    Working in the Operating Room was exciting and intimidating. The Doctors were not all nice or patient with a beginner but I was stubborn. All of my years in Psychiatry made me want to treat all patients with the utmost respect.
    The 80's were a boom time in health Care. It was not until 1996 that I was again laid off just as I was to graduate after taking my BScN part time for 6 years. I left the hospital and starting working in Home Care as a Case Manager and was happy to continue to learn and to use all of my past experience in visiting clients in their homes. I am now retired and happy. So many Nurses were unhappy with their lot, complaining, miserable to work with but with nowhere to go or no ambition to change. Hope this helps.
  4. by   BiniMc
    Hi , I trained from 1984-7 . Yes , we advocated for patients , yes we were able to challenge doctors . Junior doctors worked horrendous hours in those days so we supported them when they were dead on their feet ( this was in Uk ) the concept of care planning ws introduced mid eighties . Pay was not as good as now . Shift patterns similar except nights were you worked 7 nights in a row and sometimes you got a ten day stertch . People stayed in hospital longer ie hip replacements were in for three weeks and bed bound for two weeks so you got to know patients and their families much better . Staffing ratios were less but you got support from your colleagues , you dealt with emergencies and the very sick without the support of outreach teams or MET calls - patients loved you and rarely complained . Apart from all that there are still far more similarities than differences
  5. by   PMFB-RN
    Quote from 40yearsandcounting
    We tried very hard not to call any docs to clarify orders. Apparently they never made mistakes!
    I miss the days of hand written orders in a paper chart. Most of them were hard to read. I didn't mind, that gave me the opportunity to read it as it SHOULD HAVE been written.
  6. by   DRZmaui
    Haven’t read all the threads, but what I do remember being a psych nurse back in 80’s. Frequent take-downs (break dancing with the patient as we said), and smoking during report, and at the nursing station. Exciting day’s back then
    ]Now the focus is more towards medication than talk therapy/psycho analysis. Haven’t seen a Psych couch in years. What I do miss the Jewish father figure psychiatrist. Also WW2 veterans whom became Psych’s. Then tended to have had bad experiences during the war, becoming a psychiatrist was a way dealing with their demons. They seem to have more a compassion, the present day MD’s. Just don’t seem to care. Main focus is short term, get them in, and get them D/Ced.
  7. by   marymack
    I became an RN in 1980. I was hired as a new grad to work in Labor and Delivery in our local county hospital and learned how to take care of the patients from the other 2 evening shift nurses who had about a year of experience each, plus a seasoned night shift nurse who worked with us sometimes. We worked with residents who had to cover the ER and OR as well as L&D, so if there was a multip ready to deliver and they had to do a section (in the OR, not L&D!), the nurses ended up doing the delivery. MAYBE with a clueless medical student as a go-fer. Our residents did their best to teach us lots of things that were technically beyond our scope of practice, but came in very handy in emergencies. We answered the phone, cleaned and sterilized the instruments, cleaned and re-set delivery and labor rooms, and filled out lots of paperwork, in addition to taking care of the patients! We did admissions and we did recoveries. And if the patients weren't stable, we kept them till they were, as there was only one nurse on postpartum with 10-12 patients. We worked hard and it was scary at times, but on our patient board was a sign cut out of a nursing magazine that one of the residents put there: "A good nurse is worth her weight in gold". Sounds sexist today, but we felt important, respected and valued. I would have to say that no other job since then has made me feel more vital or needed.
  8. by   Mommavik
    I also was at Baptist in Nashville, first as a CNT then as an RN;worked there for a total of 24 years. It changed a lot after it was bought by St Thomas. I remember wearing the white uniform for years; we were all so glad when we finally got to wear scrubs because let's face it, keeping white uniforms white was horrible! Splitting up the workload so one nurse did charge, one did meds and another did dressing changes fingersticks and iv meds that LPNs couldn't do. Actually had time to talk to patients and problem solve most of the time. In later years it became higher acuity patients on the floor instead of ICU so more time needed to get done what had to be done but same amount of nurses to do it.
  9. by   JohnHood
    Probably the biggest difference was that there were no computers. Everything was paper. Your orders were on paper. Your results were paper. The whole chart was paper. There were no satisfaction scores. You cared for the patient. Your concern was doing good nursing care. Nurses still wore white. Even with all of the positive advances in patient care I still miss the old days sometimes.
  10. by   sweetpealuvr
    Nursing in the 80's... totally different from today that's for sure.
    Patient's came in the night before surgery for pre-op education. They actually learned how to use an IS prior to surgery! All preps were done on the floor. CABG preps started at 2am and God forbid that you nicked their skin with that razor or there would be hell to pay.

    There was no such thing as acuity, much less staffing by it. You started night shift (11-7) with anywhere from 12-17 patients each. Just you and 1 nurses aide for the entire team on a surgical unit- with all fresh post-ops. No analgesics were given IV. Everything was IM. You were constantly giving Demerol with Vistaril, Im's every 4 hours to all of your patients. All antibiotics were mixed by the nurse prior to administration. When your antibiotic was completed you disconnected it from the primary tubing and placed a clean needle & cap on the end of the tubing. No such thing as a luer lock connection! If your IV fluids have K+ ordered in them- you mixed it your self. All IV drip rates were measured by counting drops. No IV pumps. You would put little strips of paper down the side of the tube and write the hours on it that it was to infuse by. Constantly adjusting the rates all shift long until you got the timing down. You never sat down. It's amazing that no one died!

    There was no such thing as outpatient surgery or laparoscopic surgeries. Everything was done by opening you up, no matter how minor the procedure. Pt's were in the hospital longer. No post op ever went home without first having a BM-lol! For chest tubes they had this mid evil contraption called an Emerson pump. It contained 2 or 3 evacuated bottles (I can't remember it has been that long) and a nightmare to hook your pt up. I always ended up calling someone from ICU to help because I could never quite get the hang of it. All abd. surgeries had NG tubes. I never minded those, kinda liked them. All TURP's had a 3-way irrigation PRN. No continuous irrigation like they do now. Which meant you were irrigating that poor guy every 15-30 minutes depending on how many clots. Again, if his catheter clogged up there was hell to pay and totally seen as you weren't doing your job. Never find the fact that your 12-17 other pts needed pain meds or walked or any number of other tasks you were supposed to do. No excuses.

    Every pt received a full bath every day with clean sheets. All patients had their meals in a chair. Eating in bed was heavily frowned upon and seen as "you weren't doing your job". You were expected to walk with your patients in the hallways each shift, that's all 12-17 pts you were assigned.

    We got to do fun procedures like insert Cantor Tubes for bowel obstructions. If you've never done this (and I don't think they even place these things any more), it requires slipping a small catheter with a 2.5cc mercury weighted balloon nasally and then rotating the pt into different positions to facilitate passage of the catheter. They seldom worked, which is probably why they aren't used any more. I remember one time, a new nurse who wasn't that familiar with the procedure actually tried and was successful of inserting a cantor tube, but instead of putting in the 2.5cc of mercury (which had to be done by the nurse), she placed all 5cc's of mercury in the balloon and inserted it. This was all fine and good until it came time to remove the tube and it got stuck! Couldn't dc it if our lives depended on it! The surgeon was called and he couldn't get it out either. Pt was sent for emergency surgery to have the tube cut out. Oh I remember this well and I can guarantee that nurse never did that again. That surgeon was pissed and rightfully so. A good example of read your P & P book first before you do the procedure or ask for help!!

    Still all in all, I love being a nurse. Always have and always will. No better job in the world as far as I'm concerned.
  11. by   Nursepeggyh
    I graduated with a BSN in 1982--wore a cap for my pinning ceremony only, I lived in California--we wore white pants, colored scrub tops, white shoes. YEs, we were strong patient advocates, were expected to question doctor orders if they didn't seem right, and had excellent patient care and physical assessment skills.

    The only glaring differences I can recall from the early days were: no blood glucometer ( either sent blood to lab or checked urine for ketones), gloves were a scarcity before HIV epidemic, patients could smoke in their rooms ( awful!). There were still glass IV bottles, and a 3 bottle chest tube system instead of pleurevacs.

    Overall, we functioned at a very high level. I'm not sure what you expected to hear.
  12. by   No Stars In My Eyes
    Quote from sweetpealuvr
    Nursing in the 80's... totally different from today that's for sure.
    Patient's came in the night before surgery for pre-op education. They actually learned how to use an IS prior to surgery! All preps were done on the floor. CABG preps started at 2am and God forbid that you nicked their skin with that razor or there would be hell to pay.

    There was no such thing as acuity, much less staffing by it. You started night shift (11-7) with anywhere from 12-17 patients each. Just you and 1 nurses aide for the entire team on a surgical unit- with all fresh post-ops. No analgesics were given IV. Everything was IM. You were constantly giving Demerol with Vistaril, Im's every 4 hours to all of your patients. All antibiotics were mixed by the nurse prior to administration. When your antibiotic was completed you disconnected it from the primary tubing and placed a clean needle & cap on the end of the tubing. No such thing as a luer lock connection! If your IV fluids have K+ ordered in them- you mixed it your self. All IV drip rates were measured by counting drops. No IV pumps. You would put little strips of paper down the side of the tube and write the hours on it that it was to infuse by. Constantly adjusting the rates all shift long until you got the timing down. You never sat down. It's amazing that no one died!

    There was no such thing as outpatient surgery or laparoscopic surgeries. Everything was done by opening you up, no matter how minor the procedure. Pt's were in the hospital longer. No post op ever went home without first having a BM-lol! For chest tubes they had this mid evil contraption called an Emerson pump. It contained 2 or 3 evacuated bottles (I can't remember it has been that long) and a nightmare to hook your pt up. I always ended up calling someone from ICU to help because I could never quite get the hang of it. All abd. surgeries had NG tubes. I never minded those, kinda liked them. All TURP's had a 3-way irrigation PRN. No continuous irrigation like they do now. Which meant you were irrigating that poor guy every 15-30 minutes depending on how many clots. Again, if his catheter clogged up there was hell to pay and totally seen as you weren't doing your job. Never find the fact that your 12-17 other pts needed pain meds or walked or any number of other tasks you were supposed to do. No excuses.

    Every pt received a full bath every day with clean sheets. All patients had their meals in a chair. Eating in bed was heavily frowned upon and seen as "you weren't doing your job". You were expected to walk with your patients in the hallways each shift, that's all 12-17 pts you were assigned.

    Still all in all, I love being a nurse. Always have and always will. No better job in the world as far as I'm concerned.
    Pretty much anything in this post of sweetpealuvr's was virtually the same for me, even though I was a 1971 grad of a hospital nsg program.

    With regards to the bed-linen changes: We had no fitted sheets, just our hospital-corners-making skills. When you changed the bed, you put the top sheet on the mattress so it became the bottom sheet, and a clean sheet for the top. There were all kinds of ways to prepare a made bed for the patient. The one I remember best is the 'surgical bed', where the sheets were arranged and folded JUST SO. Supposedly then the patient could be transferred from gurney to bed and immediately covered with one simple pull on the forward edge/corner.

    There were also no disposables. We had all metal stuff...and boy oh boy did it make a LOUD sound echoing through the ward when you dropped a metal bedpan on the hard tile floor. The dressing kits were made up where they autoclaved, wrapped in brown paper which became your sterile field. Almost all of the equipment was singly wrapped, so gathering all the correct equipment required thought. No cath kits, no suture removal kits. And yes, NO gloves were allowed to be used except for surgical procedures. Otherwise you were considered to be "wasting supplies un-necessarily".

    On 3-11 we also did some of the volunteers work, aid work, and housekeeping chores. BUT, the BIG difference back then was a very reasonable nurse-patient ratio and SUFFICIENT STAFFING!
  13. by   Nita Faye
    I started nursing in 1974. I find the biggest change has been in the machines that surround us.
    My first computer looked like a cash register and was only for placing orders. We were lucky to have IV controlers (not pumps) because we were a pediatric unit. Our relationships with our Docs was a lot closer, we questioned everything and they seemed to appreciate us having their back. It was not uncommon for me to be the only nurse with just one PCT with a floor of 12-15 patients. Of course, we never sat down. When someone put their light on, you had to walk to the room to see what they wanted. Then back to the nursing station to get what they requested. Again, machines, all about machines.

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