You know you're Old School when...


  • Specializes in A and E, Medicine, Surgery.

Oh dear I really have set myself off on a trip down memory lane!! Recently a doctor called me "very old school" I think it was meant as a complement but unsurprisingly I was horrified but to be fair when I look back so many things have changed so.... so you know your old school when you remember......

Metal bed pans that had to be washed in the bedpan washer. Kind nurses used to warm them with hot water as they were freezing cold and would have patients hopping off the bed :)

Female nurses only being allowed to wear dresses and hats. The number of stripes on your hat indicated how long you had been training and when qualified you got a cotton one with lace trim. Evil things they were you used to spend half your life pinning them back as confused patients knocked them off

Unless you were married you had to live in the nurses home whilst training. Lights were meant to be out by 11pm and the house mother used to do spot checks on the rooms to make sure no men were hidden away!!!!:redbeathe Once a month an army bus used to come and pick all the student nurses up and take them back to the barracks were 300 army boys were waiting for a free disco, free food, free drink and far to much free love :)

We were not allowed to tell patients our first name and were called Student Nurse Smith. When a patient died we would dress them in a shroud, put a flower in their folded hands and then they would e wrapped in a sheet. A window would be left open to allow their soul to leave. They would go off to Rose Cottage, never called the mortuary. The nurse in charge would always say "there be 2 more before the week's out" as in those days people only ever died in threes!!!!

The wards were long open plan called Nightingale wards. 15 patients down each side. We had a back trolley and every two hours would work our way up and down the ward turning and cahnging every patient. We used to rub something onto pressure areas but I can't remember what it was. If you had lots of dependent patients then it was like painting the forth bridge - as soon as you had finished it was time to go round again!!! At Christmas a huge tree would be delivered and we would decorate the beds with tinsel - wouldn't be allowed today becuase of infection risks.

Consultant ward rounds were like a royal visit. They occured at the same time on set days. The Consultant would only talk with the Sister and you were expected to have every pt in bed, sheet folded to middle of the chest looking tidy!!!!! Never figured out how to make a pt look tidy.

Getting your silver nurses buckle was like a right of passage. As soon as you got your results from your final exams the whole set headed off to the only jewellers that stocked buckles and chose their badge. I still wear mine but it's fair to say the belt is notably bigger :yeah:

Male nurses and female doctors were rare. Now in my department we have more male nurses than female definitely a change for the better.

We took temperatures with a glass mercury filled thermometer covered in a disposable plastic cover and BP's were taken with a manual syphg and stethescope.

I am sure there are more but please other old school nurses share your memories with me :)

Ruby Vee, BSN

67 Articles; 14,023 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

you know you're old school when you remember ash trays at all the nurse's stations so the cardiologists and pulmonologists could light up while they perused their charts.

when you remember being expected to stand up and offer a physician your chair when he (and it was always a he) entered the nurse's station.

when you remember mannitol coming in 50cc glass vials with a tiny saw blade taped to them. the mannitol was all crystallized, so we'd heated it up in a saucepan of water (all nursing units had cook tops in those days) until it liquified. if you heated it too fast or too far the vial would explode. then you'd saw them open with the blade.

when you remember bicarb given every five minutes during a code.

when you remember giving mouth-to-mouth and thinking nothing of it.

when you remember each nursing unit having one box of non-sterile gloves . . . for when the medical students did their rectal exams. otherwise you never used them.

when you remember a time when all admission orders had "valium 10 mg. po every four hours prn anxiety."

when you remember calculating your cardiac outputs by long division on a paper towel after you'd taken three syringes of iv fluid out of the ice bucket and shot cardiac outputs, carefully writing down each one as you went. when i first started in icu, calculators were the size of a shoe box, so no one carried one. (now no one carries one anymore because computers will figure out everything for you.)

when you calculated drip rates by long division and infused vasoactive drips with buretrols. you'd drop enough epi, dopamine or nipride into a buretrol to last an hour, then you'd count drops and hope you weren't infusing it too fast or too slow.


575 Posts

Specializes in LTC Family Practice.

Glass IV bottles

Glass syringes and needles you washed, sterilized and re-used:eek:

Wooden wheelchairs ~ we still had some on the ortho floor as the old docs thought they were better:uhoh3:

White support hose held up by garter belts:uhoh3: ugh (pre-pantie hose era) and being totally encased in white:mad:.

Unfitted sheets and learning how to make a bed so a coin would bounce

4-6 bed wards

All nurse hospitals only LPN's/RN's, no aids or techs ~ just licensed nurses and as an LPN we were respected and valued by the RN's we worked with

Remembering all the different styles of nursing caps from different schools and wishing yours didn't make you look like the flying nun:rolleyes: mine added an additional 4" to my already tall 5'8":mad:

All the non-disposible equiment that required autoclaving. The first hospital I worked in had a huge steril supply department operating multiple autoclaves, as a student nurse I remember roatating through for 2 weeks and learning all the in's and out's of putting sterile packs together.

Working 3-11 and giving back rubs to EVERY patient, each one got a real "tucked in for the night" ritual to help them sleep.

NO ICU, I worked in a rural hospital and patients came right to the floor and were put in singles next to the nurses station.

3 year diploma RN's that rocked right out of school!

Patients stayed in the hospital much longer back then, I never remember being overwhelmed by a shift assignment, we were busy, but got our breaks and lunch/dinner. The patients got great care, shift supers were very experienced and had spent years working on different floors before being promoted to that exaulted position.

Sheesh...really dating myself:lol2:

Kinda fun walking down memory lane and can't wait to read other inputs - thanks for this fun thread.


147 Posts

Walking into patient rooms and smelling cancer

No fathers or anyone in delivery room

Waiting 12 hours to feed newborns (70's)

my mother as a nurse in the 40's--only 2 student nurses cared for 40 patients on a cancer floor at night. Standing for inspection of uniforms before work.


474 Posts

Specializes in ER, ICU, Education.

Lighting candles in boxes and then inserting the GYN sample we just collected on a chocolate auger plate...

String of cups on all males who just had prostate surgery...

PM care on all ward patients (hs snacks, back rubs, rearranging their bedside table so everything was in reach, and any hs meds)...

Stomach lavage on EVERY serious overdose patient that came through the ED...

Using leather restraints routinely on combative pts in ED ... (now we don't even have them)

Hanging banana bags on every ETOH pt in ED ...

Allowing the patients to smoke - as long as they weren't on O2 or lying in bed...

Administering prescribed ETOH to alcohol pts - in order to prevent DTs...

I'm sure there's more but that's all I can think of right now.

Specializes in Critical Care.

I just wanted to say how fascinating it is to hear about the old days. Thanks for sharing the memories everyone :) :nurse:

Nepenthe Sea

585 Posts

Specializes in PICU/Pedi. Has 5 years experience.

I agree, this is SO interesting! Keep them coming. :yeah:

Also, what is a banana bag? And the string of cups for prostate surgery patients?


137 Posts

Specializes in A and E, Medicine, Surgery.

Thankyou for the wonderful posts so much I had forgotten....

The smokey day room a real den of eniquity full of cigarette smoke and coughing COPD patients.

Standing uniform inspections when our nails were checked and we were sent back to the nurses home for a shower if make up was detected.

The mortuary trolley being made of wood with huge wooden wheels.

Please keep them coming makes me almost hanker after the olden days :)

Specializes in OB/GYN, Peds, School Nurse, DD.

"Twilight sleep" for deliveries--demerol, seconal, and scopalamine. No dads in the delivery room due to fears of contamination AND oh, yeah, scopalamine. Patients naked and swinging from the chandeliers. Halothane anesthesia during delivery. Every baby born with a 7or less Apgar due to narcotic sedation. :mad: ALL babies got formula every 4hrs and breastfeeding, while not actively discouraged, but definitely undermined. No NICU, just a little room in the nursery where all the "water-head" and "mongoloid" babies were kept.:crying2: Sitting in a cold room with a premie, waiting for death--no milk, no cuddling allowed.

Children admitted to peds with pinworms. :uhoh3: Diabetics admitted because there was a 90-degree heat wave. Surgeons who did surgery without masks "because I don't like them"--and getting away with it~!:eek: Oxygen tents. Glass chest tube bottles. Doctors unavailable after 7pm--use standing orders or use your own judgement and hope you don't kill someone. Police rounding up psych patients for their monthly Cogentin shots. Smoking allowed in the ER--after all, "it might be their last chance before they die.":banghead:

Hard leather Clinic shoes. No athletic shoes available, let alone allowed. Starched white uniforms and white support hose. HHH enemas (high, hot, and helluva lot!) Communal bathroom and separate shower down the hall--one bathroom for every 15 patients.:flamesonb

Oh, yeah. The good old days.:rolleyes: NOT.

Has 3 years experience.

How would one give a stomach lavage for an OD patient?

CT Pixie, BSN, RN

3,723 Posts

Has 10 years experience.

Although I'm not too "old" and only being a CNA "back in the day "circa early-mid 80's to mid 90's I recall:

Sitting in the "maternity" ward watching Mom's smoking in room with babies,..smoking allowed everywhere in hospital.

being a "candy stripper" and wearing a pink and white dress with an apron, feeding "old people", and helping them read mail etc.

The "haldol" for lunch bunch..lined them up for the RN for them to get their daily dose of the stuff (the amount of drugs these people were given could put an elephant down, but these "fragile" geriatric pts were still rearing to go and fight it out with you..amazing)

Nursing home residents w/restraints..pelvics to stop them from sliding out of w/c (our "pelvic" was a flat sheet spun into a tight rope like thing draped over the set of the w/c then brought up over the thigh)..Gerichairs which always reminded me of big baby high chairs. Vest restraints..and what is now called a lap buddy..but in my day was a bar that went across the resident to stop them from standin up.

Wet to dry dressings for ALL wounds

taping the butt cheek "open" with medical tape to the side rail so that we could do heat light tx to the open area

a conconction of milk of mag (?) and something else that was put on the wound..and then the heat lamp

almost everyone with a foley cath

hoyer lifts that were manually pumped to lift the patient, the medal bars that slid into the mesh like hoyer sheet and counting the rings to make sure each side was even

FULL side rails

never using much less seeing gloves.."a good CNA can clean a messy BM without getting any on her" (DON of the LTC facility)

PPE? Never..only got gloves when dealing with people on precautions

stand up wheeled BP's..with mercury in it..and glass oral/rectal themometers

each shift charting in a different color (big no-no now from what i'm told..legally has to be blue or black ink)..7a-3p was blue or black, 3p-11p was green ink, 11p-7a was red..I remember having to hunt down the big pens with the multi colors since green was hard to come by..

wearing head to toe white (pants, top, hose/socks, shoes and a sweater in either white or navy blue)

nurses wearing caps (as late as 1993 in the last facility i worked as a CNA)

only flat sheets, learned how to make a bed with nothing but flat sheets..and man I could bounce a bowling ball off my beds..Thank you Ms C for teaching me the 1940's way of doing things :)

crank beds!! hated them..can't count how many times I jammed my hand against the bed when the crank didn't go back into position.

The nurses had to be called Miss/Mrs So and So, the CNA's could call each other by their first names but never did you utter a first name to the nurse.

Actually having to WASH your such thing as anti-bacterial alcohol rub.

Less paperwork

Specializes in Cardiology, Oncology, Hospice,IV Therapy. Has 41 years experience.

I remember room checks in nursing school. If a maintenance man needed to fix something an announcement was made on the intercom that a man would be on a certain floor. The front door was locked after 10pm and if you came in late the receptionist would let you in and would call the DON if she thought you had been drinking. There were daterooms on the first floor if you got a visit from your boyfriend and the door had to stay open. If then door was closed the receptionist would burst through the door and make sure you weren't doing anything improper.

I remember one of our instructors telling us that we should never wear gloves while changing a colostomy bag because it would make the patient feel bad.