What was it like to be a nurse in the 1980s - page 3

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   Ladyscrubs
    Quote from emomshart
    Without gloves we gave enemas (milk and molasses or soap suds)....
    I almost forgot this! The room would smell like pancakes, and it always made me hungry. Best of all, it made the patients feces less offensive (not saying they ever were of course) The poo would then run like lumpy pancake batter (blueberries or chocolate chips, I cannot say).
    Last edit by Ladyscrubs on Apr 12, '16 : Reason: Making out my grocery list, added Aunt Jemima pancake mix and oh yes, the maple syrup
  2. by   featherzRN
    I was a nurse in the late 80's - AIDS was already on the scene so I always wore gloves. Not everyone did, tho. Everything else seemed much the same except more paper.
  3. by   BittyBabyGrower
    I was a student in a diploma
    program in early 80's.
    --No gloves, it was considered degrading to your patient and would make them feel bad.
    --Every patient got a bath and linen change every single day come hell or high water.
    --We had a bottle of whiskey locked in the Med cabinet for the alcoholics so they wouldn't go thru DTs....the docs had to order it.
    --We actually had orders that it was okay for our patients to go to the Solarium and smoke.
    --Most patients were in the hospital for at least a week.
    --We mixed our own meds in glass bottles.
    --We practiced team
    nursing. You would have 15 patients with an LPN and aide to help you. You did the assessment, the LPN did the vitals and we all helped with ADLs.
    --Everyone did get their lunch, and the doctors had their own cafeteria and dining room.
    --Our secretary would take off all
    the orders and leave us little "treatment" and med cards hanging on the desk for us.
    --We made coffee and toast on
    the floor for the patients.
    --In the evening we would do cares, help the patients wash up and give them a back rub before they went to bed. I can still smell the hospital lotion!
    --You could smoke at the nurses desk, the conference room and
    lunch room. Patients smoked while in bed.

    Then I was a new nurse in the NICU from mid80's on. I'll just say, thank goodness for EBP!
    --We suctioned all intubated kids every 2 hours whether they needed it or not. We also turned them every time.
    --We used dopamine and donut amine like a vitamin.
    --Every single admission got a full septic work up including an LP.
    --We weighed every single kid every single night no matter what, even if they had 6 chest tubes, intubated and on vasopressors.
    --We would hand bag kids for hours or days until an ECMO bed became available. We only had one hospital in our city with 4 beds, other wise they went out
    of state by helicopter.
    --All kids got a full bath before being put to bed after admission.
    --we made all our own meds and drips.
    --We rarely have pain medications...premie babies didn't feel pain.
    --Along the same line, premies were only paralyzed for surgery, no anesthesia or pain meds.
    --Comfort care wasn't offered, it was all or nothing.


    Thank goodness for progress!
  4. by   KRVRN
    Quote from BittyBabyGrower
    I was a student in a diploma
    program in early 80's.
    --No gloves, it was considered degrading to your patient and would make them feel bad.
    --Every patient got a bath and linen change every single day come hell or high water.
    --We had a bottle of whiskey locked in the Med cabinet for the alcoholics so they wouldn't go thru DTs....the docs had to order it.
    --We actually had orders that it was okay for our patients to go to the Solarium and smoke.
    --Most patients were in the hospital for at least a week.
    --We mixed our own meds in glass bottles.
    --We practiced team
    nursing. You would have 15 patients with an LPN and aide to help you. You did the assessment, the LPN did the vitals and we all helped with ADLs.
    --Everyone did get their lunch, and the doctors had their own cafeteria and dining room.
    --Our secretary would take off all
    the orders and leave us little "treatment" and med cards hanging on the desk for us.
    --We made coffee and toast on
    the floor for the patients.
    --In the evening we would do cares, help the patients wash up and give them a back rub before they went to bed. I can still smell the hospital lotion!
    --You could smoke at the nurses desk, the conference room and
    lunch room. Patients smoked while in bed.

    Then I was a new nurse in the NICU from mid80's on. I'll just say, thank goodness for EBP!
    --We suctioned all intubated kids every 2 hours whether they needed it or not. We also turned them every time.
    --We used dopamine and donut amine like a vitamin.
    --Every single admission got a full septic work up including an LP.
    --We weighed every single kid every single night no matter what, even if they had 6 chest tubes, intubated and on vasopressors.
    --We would hand bag kids for hours or days until an ECMO bed became available. We only had one hospital in our city with 4 beds, other wise they went out
    of state by helicopter.
    --All kids got a full bath before being put to bed after admission.
    --we made all our own meds and drips.
    --We rarely have pain medications...premie babies didn't feel pain.
    --Along the same line, premies were only paralyzed for surgery, no anesthesia or pain meds.
    --Comfort care wasn't offered, it was all or nothing.


    Thank goodness for progress!
    Did you have any NICU experience with the days before surfactant?
  5. by   smartassmommy
    If you are including the 70s in your project and have the time, read the book "Nurse" by Peggy Anderson. She wrote it shadowing a nurse for 8 weeks in 1978.
  6. by   Cheyenne RN,BSHS
    Quote from fatrabbit
    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.

    I really want to know the experience of being a nurse in the 80s. How much respect did nurses have? Where they able to question doctors? advocate for patients?
    It was exciting to be a nurse on the cusp of the infection control as a dedicated service. Wore skirts or dresses, white hose and shoes, and always the cap. Everything ironed and pressed. In the 80s HIV and AIDS was just being learned about. The facts were few and far between and pts waited until last stages to come in. Isolation and PPE had a whole new meaning.

    In the 80s I had to relearn how to start IVs with gloves on, quite a challenge when you are used to having your hands aunatural. Needlesticks could be a death sentence, the hepatitis shots were not given freely and HIV and dying scared you most of all. Doctors threw charts and generally threw loud tantrums but with writing them up and refusing to accept it things slowly began to change. It was different though.

    Heplocks were brand new, saw and used my first port-a-cath and groshrong. So much changing so fast.
  7. by   SHGR
    Quote from smartassmommy
    If you are including the 70s in your project and have the time, read the book "Nurse" by Peggy Anderson. She wrote it shadowing a nurse for 8 weeks in 1978.
    I LOVE this book. It's an amazing account of nursing and hospital life in the 70's. Cooked by Carol Karels is similar and just as good, but less well-known, taking place in the same time period. These historical accounts give me a lot of perspective. I only been a nurse since the mid-90's (but my students don't believe my accounts of bins of ativan, percocet, and chloral hydrate freely available in the nurses' station).
  8. by   ®Nurse
    Valium and Ativan were not counted in the drug count

    Glass IV bottles were the norm.

    Reyes Syndrome was new.

    You actually had time to feed a patient.

    Heat lamps were used on decubs

    Treatment and med pass 1"X1" cards were color coded per shift so you would know what was due and when.

    Shift report was given by the head nurse who read through the patient names on the kardex along with their whole life history in a nutshell.

    The patients hairdresser could walk in and inquire about the patient and no one would bat an eye.

    You could score a breakfast tray a lot easier if you were hungry.

    The hospital provided coffee, toast, butter and jelly for the break room.

    Central processing would try and resterilize anything they could get their hands on.

    They would Not tell you the sex of the baby if you had an ultrasound. (Just a bunch of Killjoys)

    It cost around $3000 dollars total to have a baby!!
  9. by   PMFB-RN
    We have a VERY old photo album in our SICU from the 80's. Lots of pictures of Surgeons smoking ON THE UNIT! Also about have of the staff wore white and the other half scrubs. Only about 1/3 of the ICU RNs were male back then, judging by the group pics, vs about half now.
  10. by   Kitiger
    I lived in the student nurse dorm; curfew at 11p weekdays, and 1a Friday and Saturday. We had to sign in and out.

    We wore white uniforms always, although the caps phased out in the early 80s. (All nursing students wore caps.)

    We recycled the glass IV bottles. I remember the big bins of them in the dirty utility room. And I'll never forget the first time I had a plastic IV bag; when I pulled out the spike, I received a shower! (Hey, the glass bottles with the rubber stoppers had always resealed themselves.)

    AIDS: wearing gloves for everything, when we had been taught not to waste gloves.

    In ER, the doctors had chairs at the desk that no nurse could sit in, even when there was no doctor in sight! And nurses were not allowed in the doctor's library (in ER).

    Preemies who survived almost always had some degree of BPD. I had one child in homecare who had lived at the hospital for his first 5 years, because he was on a vent. President Reagan signed the bill that said if was less expensive to care for a child at home, then Medicaid would pay for home care. Before that, Medicaid would only pay for hospital care.
    Last edit by Kitiger on Apr 13, '16 : Reason: spelling
  11. by   Libby1987
    Quote from emomshart
    I was a nurse assistant starting 1980, became a nurse in 1994. This is my view from that perspective:
    NO Universal Precautions, Gloves locked up in the Medication Room. Nurse, Patients and Doctors smoked in hospital. Nurses gave up their chairs for doctors. I heard of lots of bullying (nurse:nurse and Dr.: nurse) which was still in effect in 1990's. No Behavioral Standards. Doctors could yell at and swear at nurses with no official recourse. I remember a physician throwing a chart at a nurse and calling her a "god damned monkey" because she called him late at night out of concern for a patient. I remember the first time a physician was disciplined for treating a nurse badly at my hospital, it was in the year 2000. But for the most part, nurses still advocated for their patients and most physicians were kind and polite. I believe most health care workers are kind, caring people then and now. We just have more rules and regulations to ensure they remain that way.
    I do feel that nurses got more respect from community, patients, and family members back then. Physicians did also. People were more respectful and polite to "authority figures" then. However, I was constantly being groped and grabbed by old male patients. I don't see or hear much of that happening today. I think they know legal action can follow such events, not so in the 80's. I remember a nurse being suspended because she called the police on a patient (fully sane) who purposely injured her on the job. She had to go to court to get her job back. No Patient Satisfaction Scores, no Core Measures, no Political Correctness, no cultural sensitivity . But the world was so different socially back then.

    Most pain medications were IM or PO and Darvocet was considered to be strong. Wong Baker and FACES scale not widely used, pain was not "what the patient says it is" Pain was assessed and treated much less often. PCA's were not in such wide use. I now see patient with chronic pain syndrome and cyclic vomiting syndrome who get PCA's every time they come into the hospital. This was not the case even in the 2000's. People took fewer medications, especially young patients. Morbid Obesity was rarely seen, many fewer diabetics.

    Before the Nursing Home Reform regulations were changed in the 80's we saw massive pressure ulcers encompassing entire lower torsos coming from patient neglect. I rarely see this anymore. Restraints were used more often in the elderly.

    As a Nurses Aid I had to do the urine sugar dip sticks, we did not use glucometers on my med/surg floor. We sterilized bedpans at night in the auto clave. We did the wound care (sugar and betadine, heat lamps). Without gloves we gave enemas (milk and molasses or soap suds) and inserted foley catheters. You could have one then for being incontinent! We drew blood and performed EKG after a short training. After age 18, I was passing the HS liquor cart. With a physicians order, a patient could have 2 oz liquor or one glass wine or beer with his bed time snack. We gave bed baths and back rubs and they made people stay in bed longer. I remember most nurse being very kind toward me and the patients. I remember that they seemed to be more like nuns, or nurses with a "calling" back then. Of course I worked in a Catholic Hospital. No abortions, no birth control, no tubal ligations allowed!!

    We had no hospitalists. We had to call the poor, tired PCP and wake him up at night for stuff like tylenol or sleeping pills. The attending handled most problems. They did not consult ID, Pain Management, Neurology, and other specialists as much as they do now. Because the hospital attending was often the patient's PCP, they had a different relationship. Some strange orders came from these relationships. I had orders like these: satin sheets to bed , change feeding venue at each meal, play cards with pt at HS, clip and paint nails PRN and other odd patient preferences put into MD orders and expected by them to be fully implemented.
    Oh man, you bring so many more memories. Things like pain mgmt. "Pain is what the patient says it is" came around for a good reason and it wasn't for satisfaction surveys. I remember a few sadistic physicians, others including nurses were just plain wrong in how they refused to treat pain.

    Anyone rememebr having oncology patients suffering from horrific pain? Literally writhing. I recall "bone cancer" being one with a reputation of suffering with unmanaged pain. Air hunger wasn't managed well either, I still have images from 30 years ago that haven't left me. I'd take a spoiled patient over those pitiful experiences anyday.

    This is and others remind me of comparing the present to the wholesome 50's, where husbands could hit their wives and most women could never dream of getting a mortgage on their own.

    Thr 80's weren't better than today, just different.
  12. by   NutmeggeRN
    Started as an RN in 83...

    Wow, if you agreed to work weekends nights and holidays, you were hired.
    We had a regular retirement plan
    Wore my cap for a year or so
    White unis, stockings and shoes
    Smoking allowed in pt rooms
    Patients were admitted the NIGHT BEFORE surgery!!!!!!!
    Patients stayed in house for a week or so post op!!!
    Smoking allowed at nurses station.
    You got your 30 min for lunch or dinner
    Carpujects for the Demerol and Phenergan (and other IM pain meds) vials

    Wow, times they are a changing!

    In my health office at rural high school, we are getting ready to stock Narcan.
  13. by   Kyiha
    We wore white uniforms, white hose and nursing shoes (no sneakers) and of course our nursing caps. This was before ICD-9 (now 10) codes and DRGs so it was not unusual for us to keep elderly patients over the holidays so that family members could have a respite. There was NO orientation or preceptors; my first day on the job just out of Nursing School I was charge over 1/2 of the Unit, the second day I did charge over the entire 30 bed Unit (and it's not as if I had experience prior to Nursing School; I was not a CNA or LPN before obtaining my RN). However, most of my career was in the Emergency Dept. The ED docs loved to teach (those of us who were eager to learn). We worked as a team and it was very rewarding. Recently I worked PRN on the Unit and noticed how things have changed. The patients, especially the 30 and 40 year olds, want to be catered to. The elderly are afraid of losing their independence and want to get up on their own, increasing the risk of falls.

close