Memoirs from a Nursing Career
Those Were The Days
When I graduated from nursing school, I considered myself through with school. I had a guaranteed job at the local hospital, no specialty needed. A nurse was a nurse, either a R.N. or an L.P.N. We had not heard of nurse practitioners.... Just as-- A cook was a cook, not a chef.... A telephone was in the house only, and "Little House on the Prairie" was on our small box television. Jimmy Carter was president of the U.S.A.
My first nursing position was working at night on a generalized Medical-Surgical floor. I took care of all types of patients on that floor. Psychiatric patients, heart patients, cancer patients, urology patients - they could all end up in my charge. If a nurse called in sick from the Emergency room, Pediatrics, or any other place, one of us would simply be "pulled" to the other area.
And yes, I wore a white hat.
A Bit of Nursing History
Nurses have been part of society for centuries. Similar to mothers, nurses were known to "nourish" orphans and the sick. They carried basins of water and bedpans. It was a job for the poor, and not something that an educated woman (or man) would do.
Most of you have probably heard of "Florence Nightingale". Ms. Nightingale was considered the "first modern nurse." She was the one who took what had been considered a lowly job, and worked to improve job conditions and respect for nurses. In 1860 she founded a school for nurses in England.
According to Wikipedia, Linda Richards was the first trained American nurse. She graduated from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1873.
Religious organizations and the Military also brought increased respect for nursing around the world in the late 19th, and early 20th century.1
Nursing Is Changing
Over the years nurses, hospitals, and the nursing profession have changed. Some changes are for the better, but I am not sure if all the changes are.
Charting used to consist of a few lines, and some checks, per shift on a paper chart. Each shift at my hospital used a different color pen. There were no detailed assessments. Now all charting is on computer with nursing assessments worthy of MD status. Does this make care better?
Don't get me wrong. I love computers. I actually worked at one of the first hospitals in southern USA to become computerized. I do not believe though, that computers have improved hospital care.
Back in the day of "three color pens", nurses had much more time to actually spend with their patients. We did not have to depend on nursing assistants to be our eyes, we had time to care for our patients ourselves. Patients were usually happier, and happy patients are less likely to sue the hospital. Super hospital acquired infections did not exist.
Many Roles, One Profession
More Recent Nursing Photo
Today's nurse is smart, and much better educated. Most begin their nursing career with a B.S in Nursing degree. Some come right out of school with a Masters Degree. They are computer savy, and probably couldn't imagine charting with pens. They are great with monitors and pumps, but not so great sometimes with nursing math, involving drip rates and drug conversions. They have never had to monitor drip rates on a free flowing IV. Pills come prepackaged at the time they are needed.
Nursing remains very fast paced, with no room for errors. Patients often have multiple IV lines, many IV meds, and are constantly being scheduled for procedures. Families are demanding, and expect their nurse to always have all the answers. Doctors are often difficult to get along with.
Nurses today must also quickly decide on an area of practice, and receive more training to become competent in their chosen specialty. Education is continuous, and certification becomes mandatory. Each area of a hospital is so specialized, that nurses are usually unable to be pulled to work in another area for which they have not trained.
Florence Nightingale would be proud. The image of nursing has surely improved. While a R.N. may still help with a bedpan at times, bedpans are no longer correlated as the main duty of a nurse's day. The image today is of a high tech nurse in scrubs, multitasking between patients, computers, and medications.
Nursing has come a long way over the years.
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1. Wikipedia - History of Nursing