I like nursing history. I like history in general, but medical and nursing history give me things to think about and things to be thankful for. I’m glad I didn’t live a hundred years ago.
These are some of the things I’m thankful for this season:
Antibiotics. This is a big one—the whole reason I wouldn’t particularly like to travel too far back in a time machine. Nurses in the First World War got scars on their hands from picking up infections from their patients. Kids used to die from complications from ear infections. Pneumonia and sepsis were terrible threats. And don’t get me started on things like arsenate treatments for syphilis.
Painkillers and anesthetics. Again, I’m thankful that I don’t have to help hold down a patient who’s getting his leg amputated without benefit of ether. I also don’t have to grind up my own poppy seeds to make opium.
Single-use needles and disposable gloves. Ever talked to an old nurse about what she did with her day? A lot of it involved sharpening needles and washing rubber gloves.
Temporal thermometers. Gone are the days of rectal temperatures every shift. Thank God.
Psychiatry. Schizophrenia is no longer all about demonic possession. Now it’s about the proper titration of various drugs and comprehensive follow-up. We’re not dipping people into ice baths anymore, either, to cure manic episodes, or lobotomizing them for being sassy.
Scrub pants. I cannot imagine doing my day in a skirt.
The demise of the nursing cap and the all-white uniform. How did nurses function? Did they buy bleach and starch at whatever passed for Costco back in the day?
Germ theory. No more humours, no more grinding up earwigs to make a poultice for rising of the lights (whatever that was) and no more homunculi. We have it easy.
Lead aprons. Think of Marie Curie and be grateful.
There’s a lot to be happy about and give thanks for—good health, the ability to work, the brains to be a nurse, the respect that our profession has now. Don’t forget to be thankful for the plastic bedpan, rather than the cold metal sort, and the existence of good, comfy work shoes, too.
What are YOU thankful for?