Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

A Trip Down Nursing Memory Lane

I thought I’d go “old school and nostalgic” to let you read about what it was like when I first became a nurse in 1980s.  Nursing is still the largest group of health care professionals.

  • One of the biggest changes from yesterday to today is what we wear. I recall being so excited to get my white cap and pin for graduation.  For the nursing job, most of us wore white dresses while some wore white pants and shirt which we bought from a uniform store.
  • One year the Internal Revenue Service audited me because I wrote off my white stockings. They were support hose and considered by the IRS to be in vogue meaning the stockings could be used as normal wear outside my nursing career and, as such, were not deductible.  Today, we don’t even wear panty hose!
  • Another change in nursing since then is that all nurses’ notes are electronic. We used to handwrite all of our nursing notes and had virtually countless forms and checklists to complete.
  • Back in the day, there were very few IV pumps. We would have to calculate the drops per minute going into the IV tubing chamber to determine the proper IV rate.
  • We used to have stock medications that we could access whenever we needed for our patients. Each medication is barcoded today, specific for each patient.
  • There used to be a pneumatic tube system where an order would be put into a canister and shipped from the unit to central supply, lab, radiology or pharmacy just like the system you see today at any bank drive through. Today we get that job electronically.
  • We once had wet-to-dry dressing using Betadine or Dakin’s solution, but it was learned these substances were too damaging to the tissue.
  • We used to unclog a G tube using Coke.
  • Unlike today, where oxygen and suction come out of the wall, in the 80s we had to get a suction apparatus from central supply where we also had to go to retrieve portable 20-gallon oxygen tanks.
  • Back then, we used a saline solution in a trach to thin the secretions before suctioning but that is no longer the standard of care.
  • Foley catheters used to have to be below by the body to facilitate urinary drainage but now the Foleys have a back-flow valve where the drainage bag can be kept on the bed.
  • And, we used to milk chest tubes to facilitate drainage however today it is thought that the practice can cause air leakage in the tube.

Lots has changed.  If you have not practiced in a while and are planning on returning to the job, I strongly suggest that you go through a nurse residency program or a nurse refresher course to get yourself updated.

Not only do things change overall but they change from facility-to-facility.  Thus, make sure that you are up to date by reviewing the policies and procedures to fully know what the clinical practice is in your facility so that you are safe to practice.

Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane.  I hope you are enjoying the ease at which we can practice nowadays.

Let me know how you find nursing today to be different from the time you first became a nurse.  Please share your comments below.


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