Thursday, March 23, 2017

1981: Nursing caps and smoking nurses

Nurses in the 1970s (2)
Not, that's not me.
But it's the only picture I could find
depicting nurses in their old uniforms.
The daughter of a patient of mine said she was a nurse in the 1970s. She said she remembers one nurse who would have a baby on either side of her. She said she would sit and chart like that for hours, and chain smoke. She said this was acceptable back then; the dangers of it were rarely, if ever, questioned.

This reminded me of when I was admitted to the hospital sometime in 1981. I remember the nurses wore the prototypical white nursing uniform and cap. I remember asking a nurse how she kept the cap on her head, and she said she used a bobby pin. She even went as far as to show me how it was done.

That night I smelled smoke. I also had trouble breathing. In the morning, my breathing was still tight when my doctor came around. I wasn't trying to get the nurses in trouble as I innocently mentioned smelling smoke during the night. My doctor stormed out of my room. I could hear him talking at the nurses station.

A year later I was admitted to the same room and for the same reason. This time the nurses were not wearing their uniforms. I asked about this, and the reason I got was, "They are now optional, and we decided not to wear them anymore." It was sad, in a way, not to see the uniform, although I understood why they wouldn't want to wear them.

Actually, they were in uniform. They were all wearing scrubs. And I suppose it was better for them, as they had more freedom as to what they could wear, and what colors. It was probably nice not to wear that hat. And, from what I read, they were more difficult to keep on your head than this nurse told me.

It was also during this visit that I remember, on the day I was admitted, hearing my doctor at the nurses station. He said: 
"I do not want any smoking while this asthmatic boy is admitted. That is an order."
Obviously I'm paraphrasing. But that was the gist of it.

It was bath time. A nurse came in to give me a sponge bath. I insisted on not doing this. But she insisted on doing it. We ended up compromising. There was a tub in a room across the hall. I insisted the door be shut. She insisted it be open. We compromised, and the door was shut but not locked. I cleaned up quick, because I knew nurses by then.

So I got clean. I did not have an asthma attack during this visit. And I ultimately went home after a few days. Anyway, it's neat to have this memory of being a patient at this transitional time in the history of nursing.

References:

  1. Getty Images: Neat old videos of nurses wearing their uniforms
  2. workessentials.com: History of Nursing Uniforms Through Time   

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