The World of Nursing: Then and Now
Pam Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC Editor-in-chief | American Nurse Today
The Nurse List
In keeping with the spirit of Beloit’s Mindset List, I offer some observations about nursing care from the 1970s to the present.
In the 1970s:
- Nurses lived and died by the Kardex, a folded card-stock roadmap to all things for the patient, completed in pencil and continuously crossed out or erased and updated.
- Universal precautions didn’t exist.
- Electrophysiology studies were done at the bedside to discover and treat arrhythmias.
- GI bleeds were managed by inserting tubes with balloons (attached to football helmets) to tamponade varices.
- Warm-water-heated metal bedpans were used for patient comfort.
- Central venous pressure was measured with water manometers.
- Nurses used the second hand of a wristwatch to calculate I.V. drip rates.
- White oxford lace-up shoes were the norm for nurses.
- Only operating-room (OR) staff and physicians wore scrubs.
- Vital signs recording required a three-colored pen to reflect the three different shifts.
- Nurses mixed antibiotics without pharmacist assistance.
- Nurses became proficient in I.V. sticks by practicing on one another.
- Patients were weighed manually.
- Requisitions were completed on typewriters.
- Public health meant well-baby check-ups at the new mother’s home.
- Grandma died at home.
- Patients heading for the OR had their body hair shaved with hand razors.
- Most surgery patients were admitted to the hospital the night before.
- Nursing caps were still popular.
- The Physician’s Desk Reference and the U.S. Pharmacopeia, chained to the desk, were the common drug references.
- Nurses carried trays with cups of pills and med cards.
- Cancer was a death sentence.
- Staff and patients smoked in the hospital.
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