The Olden Days of Nursing

“I would be in a sweat if I tried to maneuver out of that tight parking space without power steering,” I said to my 15-year-old grandson who is currently taking driver education.

We had left the grocery store with a bottle of apple juice and two bags of pretzels. The parking lot was small and crowded.

“What is power steering?” he said.

Yes, how would he know what power steering was, much less what driving was like in the “olden days?” For all he knew, every car always had a GPS, automatic windows, and power steering.

This made me wonder how many would remember what nursing was like back in 1962 when I first graduated? Some of the antiquated rituals we performed may be better forgotten.

However, this is what I remember:

Adjusting flow from IV bottle
Adjusting flow from IV bottle

Hanging a glass bottle with intravenous fluid on an IV pole. Calculating how many drops per minute were needed so it would run over the prescribed time, and then counting the drops for a full minute. I would rip off a piece of white adhesive tape, writing the date and time the IV was started and my initials, and attaching that to the IV tubing. I checked the IV often throughout my shift, making sure it was dripping at the correct rate. There wasn’t an alarm to alert me when the bottle was dry.



"Pouring meds"
“Pouring meds”

Standing in a small medicine closet with a bunch of 2 X 3 medicine cards—each hand written—with the patient’s name, and drug, dose, and time of administration. I poured each drug from the patient’s medicine bottle or from a large stock bottle into a small paper soufflé cup. All the soufflé cups sat crowded on the small tray that I carried into each patient’s room. God forbid I tipped the tray and spilled the contents. (The nurse in this picture has a cart on wheels—an advantage over my small tray.)

Preparing an enema in the utility room by opening a packet of orange-colored Castile liquid soap and mixing it into the porcelain bucket that held warm water. Did I test the temperature with a thermometer or put a drop on the inner aspect of my wrist? More than once I had forgotten to clamp the tubing and received a good soaking.

Rusted, white enamel enema can being sold on Easy for $25--could be used as a "flower-pot."
Rusted, white enamel enema can being sold on Etsy for $25–could be used as a “flower-pot.”

Do any nurses of a certain age reading this want to add to the list?


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