Did I Say Old Nurse!
What A Difference! by PJ Hall-Bills
Most people who have been nurses for any length of time can tell you stories. One of the funniest things is to watch young nurses’ expressions when you talk about what it was like when you started. It is strange, but if you have been in nursing for any time at all, you start to build a portfolio of stories.
Once you start talking about your earlier career, you can see young nurses looking at you in horror and amazement. They seem to be saying, boy is she/he old or what! It is like talking to your children when they say “you know back in the old days when you where my age” things where terrible. They were definitely right about one thing because it was different.
It was not any harder to work in the hospital then than it is today. The work load was not any harder in 1979 and 1980 but the technology and expectations from nursing was tremendously different. One thing is for sure and that is we as nurses have to learn how to adapt with the changes.
Having started a career in a small rural area was a challenge within itself. Smaller hospitals seemed to face more challenges and needs than those of big teaching facilities. You had more tough nurses that were supervisors. If that wasn’t enough there were a great number of physicians that treated nurses like their personal verbal punching bag. This at least was true were I started my career.
One of the first rules I knowingly broke was the one about our uniforms. Scrubs were something you only wore while working in surgery. That is unless you were a surgeon. At that time it was white everything. Shoes were white and tennis shoes were not allowed. You know the type! Some like your grandmother wouldn’t wear! White hose without tears in them for females and for guys that is if you did see one, it was white socks. Worst of all were the dresses. That’s right; we couldn’t wear pants in those days.
We can’t forget our nursing caps that we were so proud of when we graduated. That is until you actually had to work with one perched on top of your head. For a lot of those nursing caps the hair styles of the day just didn’t work. If your hair was long it had to be pinned up off or your neck. Only stud earrings could be worn and that was just one pair per nurse. Rings had to be kept to a wedding band if you were married. Fingernails trimmed and no polish.
Needless to say times have changed just as the way people think about nursing today. At graduation we were proud of those wonderful caps and our pins. Nurses couldn’t wait to put on those all white outfits, including the dresses. At that time we thought that this was part of what set us apart. It was not until you passed boards and actually started working that you realized there was so much more to it than technologies, workloads, or the uniforms that you wore that made nurses.