11 Ways nursing has changed since the 50s

Some of us newbies don’t realize how much technology and culture has changed in just the last 50 or so years! Let’s take a look back and peek into what nursing was like back in the day.

1.     Syringes used to be made of glass – and had reusable needles! Unthinkable but true. Nurses in the early-twentieth century would sterilize needles by passing them through fire. Then we moved on to sterilizing them – but still reusing needles. Nurses would sometimes even have to sharpen those needles themselves with a whetstone!

2.     IV Bags didn’t exist – they were IV bottles made of glass. Imagine all those times your IV pole has fallen over or a bag rolled off onto the ground. That would have ruined your day in the 50’s!

3.     Nurses didn’t take blood pressures, hang IVs, – that was a doctor’s job. Funny how that’s evolved. Now nurses don’t even do the bulk of routine blood pressures now – that’s the role of the nursing assistants!

4.     Nurses had to stand at attention, open the door, give up their seats and hand over the charts whenever a doctor entered a room. They had to get the doctors coffee or drinks when asked – it was simply part of their job.

5.     Nurses and doctors didn’t share blood pressure readings with patients for fear of producing anxiety and raising their blood pressure even more.

6.     IV catheters were made of metal. That not only sounds painful, but patients had to be still as stone to not dislodge IVs.

7.     Bedpans were made of metal, and you guessed it – reusable. Imagine the cold, hard bedpan wedged underneath you, knowing it’s been used by everyone before you.

8.     Doctors and Nurses used to smoke in the hospital – on the unit. Why not? There was no understanding of the health risks associated with smoking. This went on as far as the mid-80’s!

9.     Urinary Catheters didn’t have bags – they drained into glass jugs sitting on the floor. Imagine kicking one of those over – and it happened frequently!

10.  Nurses decided whether restraints were used – and they were made of leather. You really didn’t want to get on the bad side of nurses back in the day. Nurses ruled the unit with an iron fist, and doctors were gods. Patient rights? Laughable!

11. CPR as a standard did not exist until the 60’s.  Before that, health practitioners used the back-pressure arm-lift method: the patient lay prone, then would have their back pressed (much like compressions, but without the repetition). Then the practitioner would raise the patient’s arms backwards to expand the lungs!

Kevin is President of Brilliant Nurse, a new company offering NCLEX Reviews purely online. He also owns Kevin’s Review, an NCLEX review portal.


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