See the current issue of Scrubs Magazine

A list of rules for nurses…from 1887

Flickr | Boston Public LibraryWhether you’re a new nurse or a seasoned nurse, it’s always intriguing to take a look back at the history of the nursing profession.

This list illuminates the day-to-day tasks and regulations pertaining to the life of a nurse in 1887—before routine charting was even invented.



1887 Nursing Job Description

In addition to caring for your 50 patients, each bedside nurse will follow these regulations:

1. Daily sweep and mop the floors of your ward, dust the patient’s furniture and window sills.

2. Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day’s business.

3. Light is important to observe the patient’s condition. Therefore, each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks.

4. The nurse’s notes are important in aiding your physician’s work. Make your pens carefully; you may whittle nibs to your individual taste.

5. Each nurse on day duty will report every day at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m., except on the Sabbath, on which day she will be off from 12 noon to 2 p.m.

6. Graduate nurses in good standing with the director of nurses will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if you go regularly to church.

7. Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years, so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month, you should set aside $15.

8. Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop or frequents dance halls will give the director of nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intentions and integrity.

9. The nurse who performs her labors [and] serves her patients and doctors faithfully and without fault for a period of five years will be given an increase by the hospital administration of five cents per day.

SEE MORE IN:
, , , ,

Scrubs Contributor

We welcome your ideas and submissions to Scrubs Magazine! Here's how to submit your own story or story idea to our editors.
By

Post a Comment

You must or register to post a comment.

96 Responses to A list of rules for nurses…from 1887

  1. Mr.Itsajokechillout, RN

    95% of my class would not be nurses if #8 were applied today. Most of them do ALL of those things. Not judging, just sayin’…. oh, and since this list uses the female 3rd person, I am sure relieved since these things apparently don’t apply to us guys. LOL Good to have the girls on staff to keep all the cleanin’ and chores up to snuff.

    • helen monson

      Back in those days they did not allow men to be nurses

  2. Tina Wisneski

    I’m seriously surprised that “courting” was permitted back then. I took care of a geriatric patient in a long term care facility that would’ve turned 100 years old this year. She always told stories on how nurses were forced to quit once they married, for it was then their duties to be good wives/mothers. She stated that she secretly worked for almost three years after marriage as a nurse, until the hospital discovered her secret due to her tax forms, before being forced to quit. These stories were confirmed to be true, so it really surprises me that courting was even permitted back in 1887. Just a random comment. :-)

    • Dr Clem

      OHHHH PUHHLEEEZ! GO AND WHITTLE YOUR NIBS!

    • Tena Michel

      My dad was a doctor, and he had been taught that women shouldn’t become doctors because they might be exposed to pathogens during pregnancy which might harm the fetus. By the same token, nurses shouldn’t work once they became pregnant for the same reason, and should take a leave of absence after starting families so they could focus on child-rearing; once the kids were in school, however, it was fine if they went back to work! Dad died in ’79 if that tells you anything about his era. I’m sure these nurses were forced to retire if they actually married.

  3. Amy Magyar

    That list is amusing, and shocking all in one. I would definately say our job is harder ‘now a days’. I also have to admit that I would be one of those “shady” nurses according to #8. Oh the shame….

  4. I was surprised at #8. When in nursing school a long time ago, our head of nursing told us that nurses got paid in beer. And with not being allowed to go to the beauty parlor or have nails done, I realize why they wore caps. They just stuffed their hair until a cap because they didn’t have time to fix it. ALSO, who watched the patients from 12-2 on Sunday?

    • calkra

      I was wondering the same thing! Did they sedate them during that time? LOL!

    • babytoes

      12-2 on Sunday? Heck, who watched them from 8pm to 7am???

      • Ckeeny222

        Who watched the patients from 8pm-7am? Um….night shift? The article states “Day shift nurses worked 7am-8pm”

    • Kathren Elainadel Mahan Tyus

      Jesus…. He was on Sabath duty. :)

  5. ginny

    oh the memories—my mother and aunts and grandma told me all these rules. grandma was actually a grey lady before a nurse. And yes, my mom quit being a nurse when she became a wife/mother. They would be shocked if they knew how nursing actually was today. Who watched the patients on Sunday were the student nurses, also the ones who ran the floor after 8pm when the nurses went home.

  6. DJ

    I laughed as I was ready those rules for nurses back in 1887. But don’t you think some of them still apply to us. We may not fill the coal heaters or kerosene lamps but we still do more than is in our job description. When I was in nursing school, we had to wear our hair off our shoulders if it was long. We could only wear pink or clear nail polish and our nails could only be 1/4 inch long. We had to wear stud earrings, no hoops or any thing dangling from our ears, also only one ring or set of rings, ie: wedding rings. No bracelets, a watch with a second hand. We had to wear white hose if we wore dresses, One of my friends went to a Catholic Hospital based nursing school and she couldn’t be married while in school.

    • nurse-dk

      “We could only wear pink or clear nail polish and our nails could only be 1/4 inch long. We had to wear stud earrings, no hoops or any thing dangling from our ears, also only one ring or set of rings”

      Do you know why you can’t wear these things?
      It’s not because of the good/bad looking they sat these rules.
      We are not allowed to wear rings or nail pollish at all – and that simpley because of the hygiene.
      There can be so much bacterial crap under the nails and (cracked) nail polish and under the rings.
      And right about the hair – it has to go up if it is longer than the shoulders :)

      Sorry my english – hope you understand my point of it.

      Nice day from denmark :)

  7. Tiffany

    shovel coal? whittle pen? uh uh…thats worse than drinking!!!!

  8. Monica

    wonder y hair done is prohibited?

    • Good_Ole_Flo

      They were considered “Loose women”or “Painter Ladies” in those days it just wasn’t done…only a “certain kind” of women frequented dance halls and painted themselves.

  9. StudentRN

    I am happy about how far we’ve come as nurses, but when I see pictures of nurses from the past it kinda makes me wish there were still some of those rules in place when it comes to dress code and such. I think the “traditional” nurse look is much more respectable than how some of the nurses go into work these days. As DJ said, I think if your hair is long you should have it up and out of your face, as well as keeping your nails short and manicured and wear minimal jewelry.

    • AmberRN

      Wow. Critical much? Nurses dress like we do today for practicality. We don’t go to work with the intention of making a career coded fashion statement. We wear what we do because by the end of the day it’s going to covered in god knows what- and starched white tight dresses and patent leather heels isn’t conducive to that. When you get that “student” off of your name maybe you’ll re examine some things.

      • sammy098

        Now who’s being critical? ;-)
        I agree to a point. Yes the ‘scrubs’ are practical and easy to wear and yes the old starched uniforms were hard to wear.i feel there could be a middle ground. I quite liked the tunic and trouser style- smart yet functional :-)

      • TravelRN72

        Always one nurse willing to keep the statement that “nurses eat their young” going. It was a generalization that SOME things make a nurse appear more professional. Having giant hoop earrings, a ring on every finger, hair hanging in your face (or pts wounds), and inch long airbrushed fake nails are far from conducive to our work yet we see them Every single day – regardless of employee dress codes.

      • kirdi

        I believe that nurses should wear colors that identify them as nurses…….patients can’t tell a housekeeper from a dietitian from a maintenance person……..nurses should be identified by some sort of color code……..I am a proud nurse of 22 years

      • lucyandken

        AmberRN I hope your not as rude to your patients as you are online. Student was expressing her opinion in a place that is set up for exactly that. It would appear your far more “critical” than she is, and for you to point out that she is a student in a way that makes her seem less important than yourself speaks volumes of the type of person you are. If I’m ever sick I hope I get studentrn to take care of me as you seem to sharp tongued and egotistical to do a job that requires kindness and patience. You may not be a “student” anymore but you still have a lot to learn.

      • catygett81

        Good for you, studentRN. It’s nice to hear you want to maintain some professionalism in your work. I operate a nursing home, and my nursing staff are in uniform. While I wanted all white, I allowed them to choose and vote on their own colors, and my licensed staff ended up in all black, nursing aides in teal tops with black pants – -both with black or white shoes, and licensed staff with a white lab coat option, aides with a black lab coat option, and — of course — gait belts and name tags are a non-negotiable. Nails must be kept trim and if paint is used, a solid color must be worn without designs, jewelry, etc. Earrings are limited to studs, no necklaces, and rings limited to a wedding band. The jewelry rules are more for their safety. The uniforms are promoting a more professional environment, and the avoidance of crazy prints helps our residents with dementia.

    • suebug

      I am so glad to see you realize how important professionalism is to any PROFESSION. While most of us no longer wear white uniforms and caps, it is appalling how some nurses come to work. I realize we are exposed to bodily secretions/excretions but that is no different than back in the “olden days”. In fact there is probably less exposure today due to the various tubes that are now available. Some people come to work looking like slobs and then wonder why they are not respected. I agree with other people posting that the rules for nurses and teachers were probably about the same since both were female dominated professions. I remember when I started as an RN (in 1973) I was told by the RN orienting me that when a physician entered the area I was to immediately get up, offer “him” my seat and get him a cup of coffee. I initially thought she had a great sense of humor and was telling me a joke but she was dead serious.

  10. Leeann

    So can someone do an updated list of these, and say which ones apply today and what new crazy ones there are?

  11. concerned friend

    my friend’s husband thought marrying a nurse answers his financial problems but he did not think that it’s critical to work as a nurse because nurses encounter risks in their day to day work. My friend wished she was not married so she could still have number 6!

  12. Stacie Stopen

    I have to laugh because we still to this: we clean off the bedside tables, we empty garbage, we empty the linen bags (because housekeeping can’t do it…the bags are too heavy)

    • mljones

      Most ES departments have begged nurses to stop over-filling linen bags, to no avail. If you have to lift it yourself, you will be more careful about stuffing it. Your housekeeper would be lifting 26 heavy linen bags per shift.

  13. mike

    Sorry, but that list is totally bogus. It’s also been published, almost word for word, as rules for teachers in the 19th century, and (with changes) as rules for clerks.

    • mothersmilk

      Exactly right. I understand that the original poster may have believed this to be true, but as educated professionals we should always check our ‘facts’. If it was uploaded as a joke, it doesn’t really work well as a joke because there is no truth to the content. I’m really fun at parties too

      • slvrunicrn

        Actually, it’s not so bogus…Many years ago I wotked as a Nurses aid in a nursing home and took care of a couple of elderly former nurses… They told me some of their daily duties, which closely resemble what’s on this list.

      • RNJedi

        This may have been from a facility, infirmary, or hospital that carried these rules. Lots of these are true. Some Hospitals and infirmaries were pretty strict depending on what part of the world. They were more strict in Europe than the US at that time. In the 1800’s the US health care system was terrible and doctors were usually illiterate with only 2 years of college. So those rules for the US were probably bogus, however, over in the EU it was much more strict.

        • babytoes

          The thing is, in the 1800’s, the only two career choices for “women of character” were teaching and nursing, so it doesn’t surprise me the rules for both professions would be similar.
          When I went to school, back in the dark ages, we were told to keep our hair up off our collars, short nails without polish, and the only jewelry we could wear was a plain wedding band, post earrings, and our watch, rules I still follow. I have had coworkers with mid-back length hair, unrestrained, that gets in their faces as well as the patients’, unsanitary, to say the least.

          • JenRN

            I think this is what is wrong with women today. We are so incredibly critical of one another, always judging each other, and never putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. I know plenty of nurses who wear their hair down and never see it all over the place or in their face or their patient’s faces. One of my colleagues gets migraines when she wears her hair up in a ponytail. Did you ever consider that might be the reason for why a nurse wears her hair down? Obviously there are areas of nursing that wearing your hair down isn’t practical such as in the OR but in no way is it as unsanitary as you make it out to be. People do wash their hair and I know when I tuck mine behind my ears it stays there. My hair has never touched a patient’s face. It stays brushed and looks presentable. However, I will agree that there are times when wearing your hair up is necessary such as during a dressing change or when going into an isolation room. A nurse can wear her hair up while doing these things and also wear her hair down when she is not. Try to remember this next time before you automatically judge a nurse and label her as unsanitary.

  14. Lisa

    I don’t believe it either. Wasn’t this before nursing was a “respected” job? I thought at that time in history, nurses were the drunks, degenerates of the family. It was considered a lowly profession. Who would want to take care of the sick? At least that’s what I remember from nursing school. I find it interesting to listen to the nurses I work with who have been nursing 30-40 years. Give up your seat when a doctor entered, sharpen needles, scrub metal bed pans.

    • princessyarnsalot

      I’ve been Nursing for over 30 years,,,never sharpened a needle, nor scrubbed a bedpan. Never given my seat to a Dr. unless I felt like doing so. (usually because I was leaving the nurses station, and they had some charting to do). There were many rules in school, the usual, hair off the collar, short nails etc, and some still today, but much more relaxed today. Here in Canada, there is much more freedom to be a professional Nurse as opposed to a minion of old….no drug testing unless found to have an “issue”, Independence is encouraged, and opinions (at least where I work) valued by Physicians. Critical thinking is valued and encouraged, and diversity among the staff is cherished. Not sure about the Nurses of old being drunks or degenerates…..once “Nurses training” became formal, the rules became as they were described above. Ms. Nightingale, would be proud, I think, of how Nursing has evolved. Many more obstacles for sure, but none the less, for a female dominated profession, huge strides in a relatively short time.

    • Mary C. Moran

      Mike is exactly correct and the photo is of an image of the late nineteen thirties forties and even in the fifties. Nursing became respectable with the Nightingale reforms of the late 1840s. the job description is amusing, but not accurate.

    • Good_Ole_Flo

      You are not correct…The Bellevue Hospital School of Nursing, New York City, founded in 1873, was the first school of nursing in the United States to be founded on the principles of nursing established by Florence Nightingale. The School operated at Bellevue Hospital until its closure in 1969. The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing founded in 1889 in consultation with Florence Nightingale was one of the earliest nursing schools established in the United States.

      Florence Nightingale’s greatest achievement was to raise nursing to the level of a respectable profession for women. In 1860, with the public subscriptions of the Nightingale Fund, she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital. Mrs Sarah Wardroper, Matron at St Thomas’, became the head of the new school. The probationer nurses received a year’s training which included some lectures but was mainly practical ward work under the supervision of the ward sister. “Miss Nightingale”, as she was always called by the nurses, scrutinised the probationers’ ward diaries and reports.

      From 1872 Florence Nightingale devoted closer attention to the organisation of the School and almost annually for the next thirty years she wrote an open letter to the nurses and probationers giving advice and encouragement. On completion of training Florence Nightingale gave the nurses books and invited them to tea. Once trained the nurses were sent to staff hospitals in Britain and abroad and to established nursing training schools on the Nightingale model. In 1860 her best known work, Notes on Nursing, was published. It laid down the principles of nursing: careful observation and sensitivity to the patient’s needs. Notes on Nursing has been translated into eleven foreign languages and is still in print today.

  15. angela

    Some of the wording on this list seems a bit phony, or embellished (just a tad), to get an extra laugh, or to up the shock factor.

  16. Patty

    I love these. I collect old nursing, medical, and old home remedies books. They make me laugh, and I have learned alot from them.
    Two things that I have read that wasn’t mentioned,” the young woman that had worked on a farm was perferred because she was use to hard work and going without extras”, and “plain, clean, and simple woman are more desired in a hospital setting as not to distract physicians”
    LOL
    I learned smoke, drink and swear (when needed) as a nurse. That was in the 70″s. Nurses use to follow Dr’s down the hall with the pts charts and an ashtray to keep their ashes from the cigars off the floor. YES we have come a long way!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Carol

    Yep it was reasonably tough then but we still wipe down bedside tables, empty dustbins, even mop the floor sometimes! Here with the change of these rules!

    2010 Nursing Job Description

    In addition to caring for your patients, each bedside nurse will follow these regulations:
    1. Daily sweep and mop the floors of your ward, dust the patient’s furniture and window sills.
    2. Maintain an even temperature in your ward by ensuring the wall thermometer reads between 21 – 22 degrees
    3. Light is important to observe the patient’s condition. Therefore, each day ensure that you check all the lights and report any that are flickering or not working.
    4. The nurse’s notes are important in aiding your physician’s work. Use only black ink when writing in the notes making sure you record everything just in case someone wants to sue you.
    5. Each nurse on day duty will report for her shift on time. Please call in sick at least 12 hours before your shift.
    6. Graduate nurses in good standing with the nurses will be left alone by them and not bullied at all. They should not expect to have leave or Christmas off the in the first five years of working!
    7. Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years, so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month, you should set aside $15. This would be in the form of a pension of some kind.
    8. Any nurse who smokes must do it off the premises of the hospital as most hospitals are ‘smoke free’
    9. The nurse who performs her labors [and] serves her patients and doctors faithfully and without fault for a period of five years will be given nothing.

  18. Mandi Malley

    I graduated in 09 and my nsg instructors were very strict about…
    Long hair must be off the neck
    No jewelry except earring studs or small hoops, and no rings except wedding rings/preferably bands.
    Very modest makeup
    No hair color that may stand out
    Shoes worn in the facility stay at the facility.
    What you do outside of school, DOES represent the school and your possible future career.

  19. Bonita Garcia

    I remember some of these. Yes we have come far and its hard to keep up sometimes. I do miss mopping floors, gave me time to pull things together at the end of 8 hour shifts. Miss that, too.

  20. I went to nursing school in 1978-1979 and we were trained to stand up when doctors entered the nursing station so he couds take what ever chair he wanted and it was a sign of respect! !!

    • Iisha Rosario

      Let me get this straight, you stood up so the Doctor to sit as a sign of respect. You don’t think you deserve respect as well. I have been a nurse for 20yrs and i too remember Doctors expecting this and other Nurses who did stand. I will depending on the situation. If the MD needs to chart or dictate and i don’t need the seat at the time, i will gladly allow him/her to sit. If i’m charting, then they need to get their own seat or go somewhere else. Most MD at my place of work, usually will say, it’s ok you sit, as a sign of RESPECT!

    • TheMotherShip

      In the 60s, when I was a student, everybody at the nurses’ station stood up when a doctor came. He could choose whichever seat he wanted, kind of like musical chairs when the song stops. It was interesting being a nurse over the succeeding decades, watching the evolution of the Divine Doctor into a human being. Not every doctor made that transition gracefully, either! It was also fun to be part of the evolution of the nurse from handmaiden to the Divine Doctor to partner. Some doctors had trouble with that, too. I always hated having to say, when someone asked a question about their temperature, pulse, blood pressure, medication list, or any other detail, “I’m sorry, you’ll need to ask your doctor about that.” I never knew then, that very soon, I would begin my long career of translating Medicalese into English, or how much I would enjoy those decades of being patient advocate, before I was done

  21. Nan

    I graduated from a 3 year school of nursing in 1973. We were still wearing white dresses (you HAD to wear a slip, white hose, white shoes and your cap. You could only wear a navy blue or black sweater.
    Your hair had to be up, you could only wear a plain wedding band, watch, and stud earrings. Oh, and if a doctor walked into the charting room, all nurses were expected to stand and let the doctor’s have their chairs. That last one was hard for me to break the entire time I worked in hospitals (21 years!). I had fellow nurses physically hold me in a chair when a doctor came to the desk, and we’d all howl with laughter. I remember SICU, and the most invasive line someone had was a cvp manometer!! I remember glass IV bottles, and medications coming from the pharmacy in 30 day bottles, not unit dosing and certainly not a pyxis machine. I’ve been unable to work at the bedside since 1994, and have been disabled since 2007. I truly miss my nursing career, and especially being at the bedside. I’m one of those old nurses who feels that she was born to be a nurse, and my mind didn’t change my entire career.
    I was also blessed to be on the cutting edge of nursing telephone triage back in 1995. It was in it’s infancy then, and a very exciting field.

  22. Vi

    I graduated from Nursing school in 1956. Many of those rules were in effect then. White uniform dresses, stockings,shoes, caps were worn. Sweeping floors, bedpan washing, standing when a Doctor comes to the desk, emptying waste cans were all expected of us. Cleaning up after a Doctor did an I.V. or changed a dressing ( meaning sweeping up what he threw on the floor.) Nurses taking patients to xray on stretchers,(no messengers). Nurses giving out food trays & collecting them, Running down to the lab to bring down vials of specimens going to the pharmacy to pick up new meds for a patient. The nurses had to do it all besides care for patients & do charting. Exhausting work.

    • litlrooh

      Well folks, I’m here to tell you, what Vi spoke of below, was well into effect even when *I* graduated in 1987. First off, when i went to school, we had to wear the dress uniform the school provided, WITH the cap. White shoes (no sneakers allowed), white hose, hair up, post earings, one hole each ear, one ring, watch with second hand. In addition, it was mandatory that we had to live in the dorm. There was one married girl in our class, and she also had to live in the dorm. No husbands allowed. She rarely ever got to see her husband for 3 years, all year round. Visiting in the dorm was only allowed on Sundays between 3pm and 8pm I think. Everyone coming and going had to sign in with the housemothers (yes you read that right…2 old biddies that watched everything). All dorm doors had to be open, and no rooftop access during visiting.

      When I was done, I started work at a hospital that was still using glass bottle IV’s, in 1987! We did all of the inventory count (not just narcs). We had to count ALL of the medicine/IV inventory. We wore whites and caps. The hospital where I did my training had a mandatory policy of wearing caps until the mid 1990s. I’m betting they might have been the last hospital to finally let go of that. When I got a job in a large teaching hospital’s SICU, we ALWAYS ALWAYS cleaned up after the docs, ESPECIALLY if there were sharps involved. They’d just toss them on the tray they were using, and we had to go through the tray and throw the sharps out. About 5 or so years later the residents were finally being told that they had to clean up their own. We emptied all the trash cans. And yes, even when I took a different position in the hospital, I STILL had to run all the way to the pharmacy (which wasn’t nearby), to pick up meds, or run to the cafeteria to pick up a tray. We took patients to the OR and to Xray on stretchers, even if they did not need an RN to go. I ran to the lab COUNTLESS times to take specimens or pick up blood products. And in addition to that, the SICU patients got back care AND bed changes at least once a shift, and often every four hours.

      Vi wrote,

      “I graduated from Nursing school in 1956. Many of those rules were in effect then. White uniform dresses, stockings,shoes, caps were worn. Sweeping floors, bedpan washing, standing when a Doctor comes to the desk, emptying waste cans were all expected of us. Cleaning up after a Doctor did an I.V. or changed a dressing ( meaning sweeping up what he threw on the floor.) Nurses taking patients to xray on stretchers,(no messengers). Nurses giving out food trays & collecting them, Running down to the lab to bring down vials of specimens going to the pharmacy to pick up new meds for a patient. The nurses had to do it all besides care for patients & do charting. Exhausting work.”

  23. Sabrathia Draine

    Thank God for the evolution of nursing!

  24. Melissa

    The Sabbath is on Saturday. Nurses today have their own set of challenges, but I’m glad to be a nurse now rather than back then. And let’s hear it for housekeeping! I prefer not having those duties!

  25. Miry Meds

    Let’s hear it for our Nurse’s Aides and our Housekeepers who have some of these duties now!!!
    And I as an LVN in California empty mu own trash bin on my Medication Cart :)

    • therealcie LPN

      Yes, I love the folks who do the “grunt” work so we can get our charting, med passes and wound care done! Couldn’t do it without ‘em!

  26. Lee ann

    I remember the last time someone stood up when a doctor came into the n. station. One of the older nurses said to him, “there’s a chair out in the hallway, go ahead and bring it in.” We all quit after that. I knew one doctor that actually carried his own charts on rounds. I loved him.
    In 1983, we were expected to give everyone a backrub at bedtime. Nowadays, they’re lucky if they get their meds on time. times have changed, more paperwork all the time.

    One world War I nurse that I knew said that the only medicines they had in the war were paregoric and digitalis.

    whoever made Florence Nightingale in charge of clothing colors was crazy. Taking a bunch of menstruation aged nurses and putting them in white scrubs is ridiculous. Our clothing should be either red or black. LOL

    • therealcie LPN

      I wear anything but white! I’m always getting something on myself, whether it’s dropping food on myself or getting blood on myself. Nothing shows it worse than white. My mother got her license in 1960. I’m sure glad we don’t have to wear the starched dresses and caps like they did then!

  27. Lee ann

    About six months ago, all us nurses were charting on the computer (paperless, yeah). And a doc came into the nurses station, we looked up, he said, “Oh don’t get up for me.” I said, “we won’t.” and he smiled and sheepishly sat down in the corner to chart.

  28. Autumn

    I graduated from nursing school in 2005. I remember reading that list. We have come a long way. Nurses have a lot of responsibilities and accountabilies that can dignify our profession. I can see in my few years of nursing that the good and humble doctors realize the importance of a good nurse and realize that mutual respect is in order. That in fact it is teamwork and a partnership. Yes, we nurses still end up doing some menial tasks but sometimes it is a means to an end and is necessary for a greater cause. And yes, I have seen some doctors help push stretchers and clean up after themselves and be polite to the nurses. People are realizing that nursing is about intelligence, strength, caring, and determination. I am proud of myself and my fellow nurses:)

  29. Your name

    I am about to graduate from nursing school, and this list showed up in one of my textbooks too. I don’t think I could keep that schedule! And when did they have time to find someone to court them when they never saw the light of day?

  30. Suze

    At least we know nurses back then were dedicated to being nurses and care about their patients and actually did stuff than nurses now who sits on their butts and talk and look up cruises and talk about hair and planning parties and let the nurses aide take care of everything who has 15 patients.

    • therealcie LPN

      What the hell facility do you work at? That sounds like a cush job.
      Actually, you sound like you aren’t a nurse. You sound like an outside observer who has no idea what nurses actually do. You may have caught some nurses during a lull.
      Because the job is often so hectic, when there is a chance to sit down and relax for a few minute, the nurse takes that minute. Nurses are human too.

      • ReneeRn

        No, she sounds like a CNA! I use to be one and the unit I worked on was rough on our ancillary staff, I can remember nurses sitting around chatting and playing games on their phones while I ran around the unit. Those nurses then had the nerve to ask me to put a patient on the bed pan “because they were busy playing candy crush”. It taught me a lot about the nurse I NEVER want to be. I appreciate the Cna’s and techs…they put in a lot of hard work.

  31. Elena

    Many young nurses find that list hard to believe, but those are true to the times then. I went to nursing school in 1975 and even though the younger doctors didn’t expect you to give up your seat, the older ones did. We didn’t have aids, so we were expected to do everything from cleaning bed pans, giving night care that included back rubs to giving meds.

  32. I graduated in 1976 . I remember mixing our own piggybacks in glass bottles,(either 50cc or 100cc, D5W or 0.9 NACL), labeling them, and hanging them ON TIME, to my team of 28 pts on a busy med-surg floor in Chicago, as well as all scheduled po and prn pain meds, etc. As well as 6 baths/total pt care per shift. The most people I was ever legally responsible for, was SEVENTY! They were nrg home residents in nebraska, I had two aides was all. I passed all the meds, did all the treatments, all the charting, and I was expected to wake up 8 residents q noc shift and assess their teeth, hair, nails, skin, clothing, etc.(This was in the mid 80s)..for $8.35/ hour.

    • litlrooh

      So right on the pay! When I started in 1987 (and worked where we still used glass bottles and did all of the inventory counting (and had 40 patients with 1 RN, 1 LPN, and 1 CNA)), I got paid $9/hour. When I took the job at the teaching hospital a year later, my pay instantly went up to 19/hour. 100% increase in pay!

  33. therealcie LPN

    Gosh, I wish I could put aside $450 a month for retirement. Unfortunately I live pretty well paycheck to paycheck and it seems like the more I dig to get out of debt, the further I dig myself in.

  34. Pingback: 1887 Nurses Rules & Job Duties - Just Us Nurses is a forum created by nurses, for nurses. Discover the benefits of an online nursing community! Tell us about your nursing career or nursing school experiences.

  35. Travelnurse01

    I don’t know any of my co-workers I have ever worked with over the country, that would be a nurse if we had to follow these rules. I feel for my Nursing predecessors.

    • litlrooh

      That’s too bad, because as ridiculous as some of these rules are, most of them are still very much in play in some way even today. There is still a ridiculous notion that nurses should be held to higher standards than everyone else and that they should be punished if they don’t.

      Even so, nursing is a great career and a great job. I”m now in Grad school to get my master’s and be a Nurse Practitioner.

  36. hironmoysaha Student

    Sir, please send details rules of GNM nursing and also send what purpose “call book” are used .
    one question – a BP machine are missing from duty room sister immediately note down to main order khata and signed onduty M.O but not to used call book. do you think sister done her work write or not .

  37. amazingg50

    This was given to me by a very dear patient. Times have changed.

  38. rhonda pollard

    where can I download this to print

  39. nursey nurse

    Its amazing what nursing has become ….4 year nursing degree,and most of them don’t even know how to get a blood pressure on a manual machine…they can’t leave the nursing desk unless they have their phone ,forever texting and complaining about how busy they are….tattoos.,body piercing horrid hair color uniforms that are too tight and revealing…nursing is totally going down hill…its all paperwork and the patient care seems to be the least important thing to worry about

    • kirdi

      I graduated in 1993…….I wouldn’t agree with your comment back then but I heartily agree with your comment now……..so sad for nursing

    • Luvarn47

      I’m with you Nursey Nurse. One of the reasons I retired: new staff, right out of nursing school, on a specialized unit, no med/surg experience. Need the basics before you go “specialized”. When I was “new” if I didn’t know something, I would ask or read up on it in the Policy and Procedure Manual. There was no Google back then. I would spend free time looking for supplies so that I could find them when I needed them. These new grads, sit at the desk, cell phones, sleeping and spending minimal amount of time in the room with the patients. They wear too much jewelry, goddy looking fake fingernails, their hair hanging in their face and their scrubs are way too tight, and it tends to make them look less of a professional. If you look unprofessional, you will be less respected as one.

  40. nursing heretic

    The comments to this make me sad to be a nurse

  41. bickie

    I would like to post. Fun and humour on my Facebook page , thanks

  42. Suziq

    Failed #8 and # 10. Pathetic, you would think that I could save $15 per month!

  43. GryWlf49

    I’d be out d/t #1 through . . . well, all of them.

  44. Melvin23

    Some one made the comment about “horrid hair color”. Now I work in a nursing home, General population 75 yrs+, and my ladies love my hair! It’s currently streaked with purple and blue and changes month to month. A lot of them get a kick out of it, asking when I’m going to re do it, and what colors. I actually had one crotchety Alzheimer’s pt who loved to cuss me out for nothing, looked at my hair, said “purple huh? Don’t tell anyone I like it!” I figured if -she- liked it, it was good enough for anyone else. I’m not just a CNA, I’m a person who likes crazy hair and taking care of my residents!

  45. Trauma Mama Lion

    I graduated from a BSN program in 1978. I knew a lot of theory, but not much practical stuff. A wonderful African American LPN took me under her wing and taught me how to really take care of patients. This became really important since I had become an EMT while in college and Paramedics did not yet exist (at least where I lived), administrators decided that I could work the streets as part of a fledgling EMS system. Imagine 2 nurses in an SUV type vehicle who would respond to calls and if transport was needed an EMT would bring the ambulance. One nurse would ride with the patient in the ambulance and the other would follow in our vehicle to the hospital. It’s amazing none of us got killed!
    I’ve always done emergency/trauma/prehospital care. I’ve lost count of the nurses, EMTs and Paramedics I’ve worked with and taught.
    So in many ways I’ve opted out of the Rules. I could never get to a clinical with my uniform still white, my hose not without a run or my white shoes scuffed. And forget about a cap! Mine was always getting caught on something. But I do have, and treasure my student stripes,my black velvet graduate stripes and my graduation pin.
    I guess what I want young nurses to know is that, with some practice experience, you will have a skill set that will allow you to reinvent your career as your life changes. Not many professional careers can offer that.
    So stay strong and stay safe

  46. MountainRN

    This list has been going around for years – for nurses, teachers, etc. Just to clarify, it is considered a legend.

    http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1872rule.asp

  47. nursepeggyh

    My mother went to Columbia city nursing school. My dad and her got engaged on Pearl Harbor day in 1941, and married on 2/6/42. They snuck around until he was deployed in the South Pacific for WWII. Why a life for nurses back then!

  48. Dustin Barton

    It’s been a while since I’ve had my Nib’s Whittled.

  49. kathy.bradleyedwards@facebook.com

    You laugh at most of these rules but even when I was a student in 1972 there were some pretty strict rules.
    You wore white, ONLY WHITE and the uniform was a dress. As a student we wore a white pixie collar blouse under a blue gingham pinafore.which was all cotton, wrinkled and shrank easily. It was made with a fitted waist. If you gained 5lbs it was too tight and the buttons popped off. You could not order another size, you lost the weight! This was a Catholic school. Each morning before going on duty we were to attend chapel and kneel in prayer. The idea was that it would allow us to prepare for the day.thats ok. We noticed that the older nuns would walk up and down the aisles with a yard stick supposedly as a type of cane. However if the nun stood next to you, you held your breath. She would put the yardstick next to your knees and dress. If the dress was more than one inch from floor to hem you were sent back to the dorm and instructed to change into your other pinafore (yes, you were only allowed two). If they were the same length you were instructed to remove the hem and the new length was to touch the floor.. Jewelry was not allowed unless it was a name badge or wedding band. Two weeks before graduation we had a piercing party at the dorm. We numbed our earlobes and used 18G needled to pierce with. DO NOT ASK WHERE THE NEEDLES CAME FROM! Most of us had long hair and we would pull our hair back with a loop covering our earrings, we did not fool anybody, this had been done by generations. Most instructors would turn a blind eye since we were so close to graduation.
    As mentioned, it was a Catholic school and quite strict. While in chapel we were to do the Catholic genuflect before and after entering the pew. My strictly Baptist friend found this as a slap at the face of her upbringing. She did a very modified attempt at the ritual each day, mumbling all the way. I pretty much followed her rule bending ways. We had a very tall, thin nun as the administrator at the school. She was very strict and never smiled. Our classrooms connected to the hospital separated by a door with a window. One evening we went up to check our mail at the mailboxes in the hallway. We were expat ing the results from a very difficult exam. My friend aced the exam which prompted her to do handsprings down the hall. She landed, facing the window facing the infamous administer. My friend rapidly turned around facing me with the look of horror on her face. The nun did not open the door but surprisingly, I saw the very smallest of grins appear on her face. After I explained the reaction to my friend, we ran and giggled all the way back to the dorm, however, I never saw her demonstrate gymnastics again.
    I was one of the last of the old school nurses to give up my cap. It meant a great deal to me, a lot of hard work and pride went into the honor of wearing that simple cap. I get VERY frustrated and yes upset when I am watching the new reality medical shows, in particular the Dr Oz program. Seeing these nurses, who are quite knowledgable in their field, wearing their long hair hanging down often falling over open wounds, or one nurse repeatedly runs her hands through her hair. I see so many of these absolute “no-nos” that I cringe and shudder. Oh what would Sister Mary Roselyn think? I recently had to give up my career due to disability, 42 years of abuse of the body does add up. I loved working with Hospice but could no longer perform the physical aspects of the job. So, it is fun to look back and laugh at what seemed so silly, but you know, some of these rules were founded in the basics, most could be discarded but let us not forget the rules of sanitary rules and most of all our pride.

  50. AlabamaNurse

    I graduated in 1994. My Nurse Chair was close, if not 70. She showed us her first uniform-which was a long heavy dress to the floor. I remember the material was so so heavy! I remember learning about how the nurse duties changed from BEFORE Florence Nightengale to AFTER her nursing contributions. We were the last class to graduate wearing caps at my nursing school. Our uniforms were still white then with white polished shoes….you better not have a wrinkle in them when you showed up at 6am for clinicals. You better have short manicured nails, NO jewelry other than a wedding band and stud earrings if your ears were pierced. I remember a girl showing up with a wrinkled uniform and my instructor had an iron with her and made her iron it before coming to the floor for report. Now, nursing- well nurses are nothing like then. I recently took my husband to the ER where he was suffering much pain from an enlarged gall bladder. After an HOUR of waiting on pain meds, I got up and looked for a nurse. They were ALL at the nurses desk ON THEIR PHONES!! I lost my temper and became irate. NO NURSE should be allowed to have a cell phone while on duty. NOTHING on facebook or whatever is more important than doing their job. We were nursed YEARS before cell phones were out and such behavior to me is grounds for dismissal based on neglect!! I dont like the long hair down either. Back in the days before me….80s and 70’s etc., the nurses were addressed by their surname…Like Ms. Brown, Ms. Smith, etc.. like the drs were addressed by Dr Brown, Dr Smith, etc. I worked at a teaching hospital so most of the drs were residents and I dont ever remember a nurse ever standing when one entered the nurses station. THey always respected our opinions and frequently asked for it. We still do a lot of things on this list, cleaning, etc., but I am thankfful for the assistants and housekeeping. The nurses today, I dont blame, the instructors must be more lenient, I dont know.

    • Rich Jennifer Atwood Reihl

      I graduated in 2000 and we were held to the standard that you described and there was no room for error. I got so tired of braiding my long hair to keep it out of the way that I just cut it off all the way to my ears. One of my favorite home health patients, back in 2006, was a nurse in her day. She was 90 when I cared for her. She had severe arthritis and could hardly move, but she was determined to still live in her home. She showed me her graduation picture when she graduated a hospital nurses program in 1936. She was so beautiful! She would talk with me about all her experiences and oh was she strict on me! She didn’t miss a step. I really miss her.

  51. helen monson

    Most of my class would not have made it through because of # 8. It is a good thing that nursing has changed. Back in those days they did not allow men to be nurses Mr. Itsajokechillout RN

  52. Rich Jennifer Atwood Reihl

    I would guess that it would be the student nurses who ran the night shift because the student nurses lived at the hospital. Usually on the top floor. The rules stated that the students would get one evening off a week to go courting, 2 nights if they went to church on Sunday. They are probably the ones who ran the Sunday church shift too (at least those that didn’t care about a second night off!)

  53. Bettina Moore

    My grandmother was kicked out of nursing school when they found out she had secretly gotten married… Even though he had been sent to fight in WWII. When he was killed in action she was allowed to finish and work.

  54. Luvarn47

    I love those list of rules……..most of which I followed faithfully. I was in Nursing for 43 years, recently retired…..I experienced all those changes in Nursing. Some for the good and some not so good. I believe that “patient’s safety” should always come first. Not so these days. And by safety, I mean not short staffing units to save money. Not hiring enough staff to cover units not only jeopardizes the patient’s safety, but the Nursing staff as well. It shouldn’t have anything to do with money. Years ago, when Hospitals were places where sick people went to receive medical treatment, it was more rewarding just to be a nurse. Since the “big business” happened, peoples’ attitudes changed and Nursing took a step backward. Nurses are caregivers, and they care and give at the same time. Nurses aren’t waitresses and gofers, social coordinators, or slaves. Nurses are expected to know more than the doctors, expected to continuously update skills and education. Real Nurses are both female and male. And it shouldn’t matter what they are, they should receive the same pay. Experience should count for something. Nursing isn’t for everyone. Most perspective nurses don’t find out that nursing isn’t for them, until they are out of the “honeymoon” phase of Nursing. And if you decide to become a Nurse, don’t do it for the $$, Nurses don’t really get paid enough for what they are expected to do. I became a Nurse, because I loved taking care of people, you have to be a people person, if you are not, then you’d better look else where career wise. Just venting!!!

  55. mosesfrances

    Way to harsh……