"The Good Ol' Days!"

One of my favorite things about allnurses is reading the posted "Stories" of how things used to be. I am amazed to learn about nursing in the past, and how things are different now.


You are reading page 2 of "The Good Ol' Days!"

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatrics, Wound Care. Has 11 years experience.

I just remember my grandmother telling me that the first time she saw male genitalia was with her husband. In nursing school the textbooks all had fig leaves, and apparently, there were male aids that took care of cleaning those specific bits and pieces.

She was also reprimanded in school for having lunch with a male friend (friend of the family I believe) in a public restaurant near the school. She lived on campus.

Shame I never really asked her about her nursing experiences.


419 Posts

Specializes in OB (with a history of cardiac).

Well heck, I'm read a book to my son tonight that I got from the library- it's a Mister Rogers book called "Going to the Hospital, and it's from 1987- I was well into school age by then, and the book just cracks me up- there was a page of steel cribs lined up, separated by pastel curtains, a photo of a doctor taking a child's blood pressure (PSHH! As if!) a giant IV pump looking thingy thing, and the nurses are all sporting bug eye glasses and mullets...and white bottoms. Nobody in our hospital wears white bottoms except students, and they're even shifting to all blue. It's a great book.

My mom has been a pharmacy tech since 1971, and she has some good stories about how it used to be. At home, growing up we had a big GLASS IV bottle that was labeled normal saline, we used it as a spare change jar. When I was in school to be an LPN several years back, all my instructors were from the old school, and they had us crunching out drug calculations in the apothecary system. I have yet to see any grains or drams of anything. In fact, I told my mom about that, and she told the pharmacist she was working with (who had been in practice since the late 60's) and he said that if he ever saw something come across in the apothecary system, he'd personally track down the doc who wrote the script and box their ears.


2 Articles; 1,406 Posts

Specializes in nursing education.

Have you ever read Nurse by Peggy Anderson? It was written in 1978, and is just an amazing piece of nursing and hospital history- a real slice of life. My favorite parts of that book involve smoking. Doctors smoking in the nurses' station, patients smoking in bed, stuff like that. It seems unbelievable now! It even seems hard to believe that in 1990, there was a smoking lounge in the hospital where I wore a candy-striped pinafore. Did that really happen?


144 Posts

Specializes in everywhere. Has 15 years experience.

love the stories


4,124 Posts

Have you ever read Nurse by Peggy Anderson? It was written in 1978, and is just an amazing piece of nursing and hospital history- a real slice of life. My favorite parts of that book involve smoking. Doctors smoking in the nurses' station, patients smoking in bed, stuff like that. It seems unbelievable now! It even seems hard to believe that in 1990, there was a smoking lounge in the hospital where I wore a candy-striped pinafore. Did that really happen?

Ohhh yes!

About the only place it was forbidden during the "old days" was certain units, OR and any place there was O2 being given (hence all those "No Smoking Oxygen" signs.

Patients smoked either in their rooms or in the bathrooms. Doctors and others smoked in the nurse's station or other facility lounges, and on it went. Indeed though one is not that old can remember as late as the 1980's many office buildings allowed workers to smoke in their offices or certain indoor areas.

Nurse by Peggy Anderson was a great book and made an excellent television series! Still remember the quote from the book: "Doctors don't keep you alive, I do".


652 Posts

These are great!

My great-aunt worked in a TB sanatorium in Ukraine in the 1950's and she said most of the patients were vile and angry. They would contemptuously spit their blood-streaked phlegm on the floors or near the staff.

Specializes in Aged Care, Midwifery, Palliative Care.

My Grandmother who turns 99 this year, started her career as a nurse by going to the Mater Hospital here in Brisbane and asking the Nuns if there was any work for her. She started her training as a Student Nurse by making toast in the kitchen and then she worked her way up from there. I trained as a Student Nurse for 2 years in the very same hospital that she started her career, only toast making wasn't one of my first competencies.

Ruby Vee, BSN

67 Articles; 14,023 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.
have you ever read nurse by peggy anderson? it was written in 1978, and is just an amazing piece of nursing and hospital history- a real slice of life. my favorite parts of that book involve smoking. doctors smoking in the nurses' station, patients smoking in bed, stuff like that. it seems unbelievable now! it even seems hard to believe that in 1990, there was a smoking lounge in the hospital where i wore a candy-striped pinafore. did that really happen?

when hospitals went "no smoking", it was harder on the pulmonologists and cardiologists than it was on the patients! i remember having ash trays in the nurse's station for the physicians to use while they were "rounding" on their patients . . . we nurses had to go to the break room to smoke. seriously, you didn't want to be in either place if you were allergic to tobacco smoke! i had one colleague who used to pass meds with an ash tray on the med cart and a cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth.

a standard part of patient teaching was teaching the patients not to smoke with their oxygen on. seriously. i only remember two patients setting themselves on fire, but it was pretty dramatic.

when i was a student, we were supposed to stand up and offer the physicians our chairs when they came into the nursing station. i thought that was an antiquated piece of nonsense until the day i was the nurse, there were five or six students cluttering up my nurses's station and no free chairs and a couple of the doctors came to do their orders. then i got it -- with nursing students taking up all the free space, there's no place for anyone to do their work. it was an "aha!" moment.

metal bedpans were a trip -- they were always cold, and they made such a racket when someone threw them . . . . metal urinals were a trip, too. now somedays i wish we had them again. a 150 kg. patient can flatten a plastic bedpan and you have spillage all over your bed. a metal bedpan would hold up to the challenge.

remember blue pens for day shift, green for pm shift and red for night shift?

maalox and heat lamps for decubs? had a colleague set fire to the patient's bed by having the heat lamp too close . . . not a good outcome there.

i started in the late 70s -- no iv pumps in our little hospital except for heparin. dopamine drips you counted drops, but we had ivac pumps for heparin. i remember titrating pressers by dropping an hour's worth of the drip into a buretrol and then counting drops. we were pretty accurate!


4,124 Posts

Hmmm, what can one remember?

A.M. care was just that and the ward/floor was done *before* lunch time.

Shifts were 7-3, 3-11, and 11-7.

AM care for bed ridden patients was a bed bath using a basin filled with warmish water, a small bar of Ivory or other soap, cotton wash cloth (like we used at home), and towels. If one was lucky it was a nurse and aides or two aides, usually just the one (aide) and then one had to remember all that training for shifting/positioning a patient who may or may not be able to assist. Oh yea, it's fun trying to wash up an explosive BM whilst patient refuses to "stay put" on his/her side! *LOL*

Med/Surg I for *all* nursing programs included learning three types of beds. One was tested an these and other nursing arts in the lab as part of final examinations.

Making an occupied bed by doing all one side at once (with pt positioned on his/her side), pushing the layers underneath pt, reposition pt, then going over to the otherside and taking away the soiled linen and pulling over the fresh.

Going around after mid-night and removing all water pitchers from NPO patients due for the OR in the AM. Often a sign was placed on the door or near it as well.

Hospitals had cafeterias with good food and one could actually leave the floor to go down for lunch or dinner breaks.

Pre-folding cloth diapers when they came from the laundry and placing in linen supply on peds or newborn unit so they would be ready for changes. Learning how to fold same in different ways for boys or girls.

Foot wear was standard nursing shoes. Clogs weren't permitted and if you fell or slipped on duty whilst wearing the things insurance often wouldn't pay up.

Glass IV bottles of NS coming up on huge pallets from the pharmacy making a ton of racket as they clanked.

No Pyxis nor unit dose. Nurses mixed meds prior to dispensation and or creating an IV. Most meds came in large bottles of pills or liquids and one poured out what was required.

Hot tea with lemon or ginger ale for patients with nausea.

Rectal tubes for gas.

Sitting through Med Dosage Calc class learning metric - apothecary conversions and thinking "GPKMN" (God Please Kill Me Now) Grams to mgs, to grains. Grams to drams....

No caculators allowed, show all work and the ONLY formulas allowed were what one was taught. No matter if you got the correct answer, if the method was wrong you didn't get credit. Oh and there wasn't any of that "dimensional analysis" stuff either. *LOL*

Nurses couldn't make a diagnosis as that was the doctor's realm. So nurses would have to chart/say things like "appears to" or some such to get around. Nurses couldn't state a pt had died (that was also a medical diagnosis) until a doctor had done so. They could say "it appears the patient is no longer breathing" or in some facilities "patient has expired".

Infant formula and sterile water came in glass bottles. One simply screwed on a nipple and got on. Cloth diapers (clean of course) were used as bibs and or burp cloths.

No Chux. Draw sheets were doubled or a rubber mat was placed between the layers.

When linen was in short supply the top sheet was used as the bottom and only one clean sheet was issued. Blankets were only changed every other day or when they became soiled.

No implied formality. Patients were addressed as Mr. Mrs. Miss, or by title if they had one (Doctor for instance). Nuring staff was "Miss. Smith", or "Nurse Smith". Doctors were "Doctor Jones"....

When patients died and they were ready to move the body to the morgue all doors to other patient's rooms were closed so they couldn't see the transfer.

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JBudd, MSN

1 Article; 3,836 Posts

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 42 years experience.

Into the 80s we were still fighting smoking in the lounge, I remember how proud I was that when I brought it up at staff meeting that they finally banned it during report (but only during report).

I remember the colored pens, and metal bedpans!

These days, the problem is getting the docs to go to their designated area and computers (which still access everything, unlike the nurses that have had just about everything restricted, including the health care article links that are on the hospital page!). They insist on sitting at the nurse's stations and using ours. No where to sit! I tell my students they don't sit, either in the lounge or the station if there is anyone else around.

We used betadine and a blow dryer for our decubs in LTC.

And the hoops we jumped through to get an IVAC sent to the floor!


4,124 Posts

Dress codes were much more strict then, even when caps had been mostly gotten shot of many DON's, supervisors and head nurses didn't stand for any nonesene on that front.

No heavy or obvious make-up. Ditto for perfume.

No nail polish and or long nails (natural or otherwise).

No jewellery aside from a watch and perhaps one's wedding band. Some head nurses allowed a newly engaged nurse to wear her ring for a few days or weeks, but after that it had to go as well.

If the hospital colors were *blue* for instance and you had a red sweater, it had to go. No, it didn't matter if your granny in County Cork knitted for you, wear it on your own time.

Wearing isolation gowns to either keep warm or hide a badly stained uniform.


32 Posts

Really good thread. I love to hear stories like these. Thanks for sharing them!