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Wednesday, February 26, 2020  

The Good Old DaysPublished 4/2/2007

If you are not interested in nostalgia and hated the ‘Good Old Days’ stop right now. Today, since this is the centennial year, I feel like talking about the old days, at least the old days for me.

I began nursing school in 1959, lived in a dorm that was built in 1892, and used an old, scary tunnel to go across to the main hospital. The OR suites had large windows that could be opened. We used glass syringes, re-sterilized syringes and needles for use again, used metal bed pans, emesis basins and stood up when a physician, nun or priest entered a unit. Our white caps and gowns were starched to the point they could stand up by themselves. We didn’t wear jewelry with our uniforms.

My first job, after I graduated from nursing school in 1962, was at the "old" Mercy hospital that was almost downtown. I worked on a unit that received patients from both the city and county jails. I was a young new graduate but I was a Head Nurse. Thank goodness for three-year nursing schools with hours and hours of direct patient care on all shifts, or I would never have made it. At that time there were still multiple patient rooms, with as many as six patients in one large ward. One vivid memory I have from that time is when a patient/inmate escaped, complete with his red-rubber chest tube and glass drainage bottle. The patient, with chest tube intact, made it by bus into Texas.

I remember shopping at Penn Square for my wedding dress, having lunch at Val Gene’s Restaurant (They played classical music, which impressed me.) and going to a movie. Penn Square was not an enclosed mall at the time. At some point during that same time was a coffee house called the Hungry Eye or I. Don’t have any idea where it was but for some reason it seems like I heard Mason Williams there, but that could be a figment of my imagination. I am old after all.

I worked at Baptist Hospital when it had six floors, was half the size it is now, had one ICU and a code blue team that responded to codes from the Ortho floor to everywhere in the hospital. Dr Zudhi performed ‘open-hearts’, before transplants and his patients received "Tiger’s Milk" and ambulated very quickly after surgery.

In between working at Mercy and Baptist I worked at a small hospital in Guymon, Oklahoma, that was around sixty beds total. Half the hospital was staffed with physician’s who were MD’s, the other half with physicians who were DO’s. Never the twain shall meet. The two nursing units, were separate, with their own dedicated DON, Nursing staff, ER and Delivery room. The charge nurse might have a patient in ER with an MI, someone in labor and Med-surg. patients on the unit. Of course things have evolved since then and the hospital is larger, under one administration and no longer divides the staff along those lines.

OK. What’s my point? We all know the "good old days" are no longer relevant. Nursing has progressed. Nurses are critical thinkers and everything is disposable. We measure quality by the core measures, have our successes and failures posted on Hospital Compare and field unannounced visits from JCAHO.

My point is that we are so immersed in technology, meeting core measures and attaining Magnet Status, that we may have forgotten some the reasons we became nurses-the direct care kind of things we used to do.

Like giving a back rub to the patient with their bath in the morning and another one at bedtime. Spending time with the patient to do patient teaching rather than handing them a 10 page printed handout that they may not be able to understand. Being the person the patient sees most often, rather than the tech, aide, ward clerk or other unidentified person. Rock the babies in the newborn nursery.

As we struggle to attain everything we desire as a nurse, as a facility or organization, we have to remember that even though our goal is to improve patient care and patient outcomes, the patients are individuals, with personal problems, joys and sorrows. As we measure the success of our progress, we are not only looking at a cross section of AMI patients or surgical patients, we are looking at the patient who lost a job and no longer has healthcare insurance, the single mom trying to support her kids, the man who just had a stroke at 64 and Medicare has not kicked in yet, the widow who still works to support a disabled child. With progress and new technology, nothing in medicine really gets easier, we just develop more responsibilities. Individual patients must remain the most important ingredient in our formula for success.

If you too want to talk about the "Good old days in nursing", come to and post a comment.

Carol Shenold, RN, CIC, is an Infection Control Nurse, freelance writer and artist. She writes textbooks for HCPro, lives with her daughter and two cats, and can be reached at

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