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Nurse contraptions from long ago

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Ever heard of a fluting iron? Had you been a nurse a few decades ago, you would have been all too familiar with this contraption that put the crease in a nurse’s cap.

You can view it, along with other remnants of the profession’s bygone days, at the University of Maryland Nursing School’s Living History Museum in Baltimore. The collection chronicles the evolution of nurses from a stereotype of “just women carrying bedpans” to their present-day role as critical decision makers and is full of artifacts like a rocking hammock incubator for preemies and nursing uniforms from across the decades.

Perhaps the best offering, however, is the museum’s docents: retired nurses who guide patrons as they tell their own stories. If you’re lucky, you’ll get Esther McCready, who sued the UM Nursing School in 1950 (with the help of Thurgood Marshall) to gain admittance, forever scuttling a policy of not admitting African-Americans. McCready, who has also sung with the Metropolitan Opera, has her own display at the museum.

Variac Transformer

Variac Transformer, 1960's

Some nursing contraptions are so wacky they’ve eluded identification! Check out our gallery of more nursing contraptions including images from the University of Maryland School of Nursing History Museum. Feel free to give us your best guess on our mystery contraptions!


This article is mentioned in the Spring 2010 print edition of Scrubs Magazine, which can be found at uniform retail stores nationwide or purchased online. Go to http://scrubsmag.com/magazine for a peek inside and to find out where you can get your copy!

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2 Responses to Nurse contraptions from long ago

  1. Deidra47 RN

    I believe I used that big green machine that says….blankeratrol….on it. That was for cooling blankets. The contraption on the wall behind the nurse may have been a suction machine.

  2. mccammonl

    The mystery contraption in picture #8 the blanketrol was a cooling blanket we used it in cardiovascular surgery to drop the patient’s temp during open heart surgery it ran water through the blanket. always worried about it being punctured and leaking. The small machine on top of the blanketrol is a nerve stimulator. we had a ENT Doctor that used this for many years till attachments that no longer could be ordered or made were broken.