My oh my, how nursing has changed!

Vintage nurse, retro nurse, old fashioned nurse, RN, vintage RN, We asked our seasoned nurses on Facebook about the changes (good or bad) they’ve seen since their first years in nursing. What amazing answers you gave!

Read on to discover how nursing has evolved!

As students in the early ’60s we had to stand when a doctor entered the room and we had to offer him (or her, which was rare) our seat if there wasn’t one available. We were never to question a doctor’s order and always had to answer “Yes, Doctor” or “No, Doctor.”
—Pat Wonacott

We went from white dresses, stockings and hats to black scrubs and computers.
—Bonita Garcia

Back when I was first in training, we were told to not use gloves unless absolutely necessary as it might make the patient think we thought they were dirty. I’m not kidding! I was also on an “isolation” unit with no toilet or sink in the rooms. There was a large communal/dorm bathroom, but we had to use commode chairs in every room.
—Evalea Siverly

The change from “it’s a calling” to “it’s a career.” For many it’s a second career or degree.
—Annette Seals Singleton

I spend more time documenting every little freckle and wrinkle and red area, rounding notes every hour, waking sleeping patients to ask how they like their sleeping pill or pain medication (and documenting), dragging the rolling computer cart into the already overflowing-with-furniture rooms to scan meds and scan patient armbands…and I get more hours for mandatory education than actual work hours since we are now a magnet hospital.
—Deborah Zahorchak

Back when I first started, “comfort care” meant just that—to be comfortable. No meds except pain meds and anti-anxiety drugs, no lab work and no changes to diet. Lately I see doctors ordering lab work, changing medication, not d/cing pills like vitamins and supplements and not allowing sweets or salt if the dying resident wants them.
—Dounia Fontana

I think one of the saddest things is what I haven’t seen change in nursing. I have moved from nursing in the northern states to nursing in the southern states. Nursing in the South has not seemed to have progressed at all in the past decade. Nursing in this area of the country lacks any identity, and nursing staff here seems to remain more doctors’ handmaidens than professional staff. It’s just sad to me that nursing still can’t come into its own across the country.
—Chris Thuer

Accu-Chek machines. When I became an RN, you had to put a huge drop of blood on a
strip, wait 60 seconds, wipe the blood off with a cotton ball, place the strip in the machine and wait 30 to 60 seconds for a reading. It was a nightmare teaching patients to do this at home. It’s much better now!
—Leslie Pardue Masters

More and more paperwork (charting) changing the focus to “customer service” rather than patient care.
—Kelly Farley Kantola

The patients I used to have two of in ICU are the same kinds I have five of on Med-Surg now. I don’t have more hands or time, though!
—Angela Horn Nitsche

Nursing has indeed changed radically over the years, from developments in technology to the introduction of new epidemics. What’s the most radical change in nursing that you’ve seen?

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5 Responses to My oh my, how nursing has changed!

  1. Pamela Rossano RN

    WE were very careful about infection. We never put linen on the floor. We covered the wheel chair with a sheet before putting a pt. in w/c. Always covered our pt’s lap with a sheet.Called pt’s by their Mr or Miss or Mrs.I graduated in 68>
    We always called the doctors Dr. never by their 1st name>
    Our directors of nursing and supervisors could roll up their sleeves start an IV transfer a pt. Wore uniforms and were known and visible on the floor (now called unit). They really knew about pt. care and could be a resource. The president of the hosp. was always an MD.

  2. wilma54 RN

    I remember during the first few years of working in a hospital/rehab center, smoking was still allowed in hospitals and by patients while in bed. Employees, and yes, even doctors, would smoke at the nurses’ station and in the chart room.
    I also remember, pre HIV, we didn’t wear gloves for incontinent care, only for sterile procedures.

  3. OBRN

    I feel like I spend more time “nursing” to a computer than to a patient. Weren’t they supposed to make our lives easier? We spend so much time logging in and out, too many steps to even log in, too many pages to get to where we want to be. If you use the computer in the room you are facing away from the patient and having to turn lights on because you can’t see the keyboard, plus it’s mounted so high on the wall that my neck gets really sore looking at it. So I drag around the “WOW” carts from room to room so at least I can see my patient while I am charting. But at this point because we are a specialty unit we are double and triple charting because so much in the system doesn’t apply to us. Plus the amount of time we spend on the phone to pharmacy because of problems has probably doubled, the med isn’t in, it’s not correct, it has already been d/c’d etc etc.
    In addition to this we are being monitored and some fired for every error we make so who is going to file incident reports? We have become dietary, housekeeping, phlebotomy, maintanence, secretary, data entry, transport, sterile supply, security in addition to our nursing duties with not enough staff. I think nursing is sliding backwards tremendously.

    • RNCCRN9706 RN

      I agree with OBRN! On noc shift, I’m also respiratory therapy as well as the Respiratory Therapist leaves at 11pm so in the ICU, I have to draw my own ABG’s, vent checks, neb treatments, etc. Oh and we don’t have an NA either so if we get a new admission, we have to enter our own orders.

  4. doxiemom

    Back in the 1970s, 80s, Smoking was allowed all over the hospital. Physicians even smoked at the nurses station. My coats always smelled like smoke from the break rooms. It was a royal pain to be continually moving patients to keep smokers and non smokers apart.

    We daily got a break and lunch off of the unit. The nurses were divided in half and each half went to break or lunch together. We even went out to eat at a nearby bar for lunch some days. I remember one evening half going to a nearby Chinese buffet and the other half going later.

    Gloves were rarely worn until the mid 80s Aids crisis. An ET nurse told me once it would make the colostomy patient embarrassed if you wore gloves. If we did wear gloves, they were vinyl and slid off easily. Finger cots were used for rectal checks. Oh, and no safety needle devises. Don’t know how many needle sticks I got.

    I remember the first blood sugar machines were very complicated, but I also remember checking the patient’s urine for sugar. We had a OCD diabetic doctor who would even fill out his patients menus for them, telling them what to eat. He once threw ice water on a nurse who gave his cardiac patient ice water.

    Students were never allowed to sit at the nurses station. And they had to get their assignments, for the next day, after hours so as not to monopolize the charts.

    The patients were a lot less sick. People would come in and be admitted for routine GI xrays. I worked on a regular med-surg unit, but mixed and gave chemotherapy without gloves or a hood. Mixed most of our IV additives on ourselves. I remember stressing just because every one of my assigned patients had an IV or saline lock. LOL

    My hospital was one of the first in the nation to have a computer center. I have seen many different computer programs come and go. This has been a great help with me keeping up and learning new skills.

    Yes, things were a lot simpler but, I prefer how things are today for the most part.