I found an article outlining a nurse’s job description from 1887 in SCRUBS Magazine.  I was curious;  how much have things really changed??

1887:  Daily sweep and mop the floors of your ward, dust the patient’s furniture and window sills.

2017:  Be aware of the patient’s room environment for safety and infection prevention:

  • wash your hands
  • clean equipment
  • make sure bedside commodes, urinals and bedpans are emptied and clean
  • Commend your housekeepers for what they do!  They have a huge impact on patient care.

1887:  Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day’s business.

2017:  Hospitals are always freezing!  Utilize warm blankets and if you are able, the thermostat.

1887: Light is important to observe the patient’s condition. Therefore, each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks.

2017:  Always have a flashlight!

1887:  The nurse’s notes are important in aiding your physician’s work. Make your pens carefully; you may whittle nibs to your individual taste.

2017:  Document!!  If it’s not documented, it’s not done.

1887:  Each nurse on day duty will report every day at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m., except on the Sabbath, on which day she will be off from 12 noon to 2 p.m.

2017:  Shift times will be from 7 to 7 or until your documentation is complete.  You will be provided with a 30 minute lunch break no matter which day it is.  (I know, some of you laugh, but you really need to be taking a break during those 12 hours but that might be a whole other post!)

1887: Graduate nurses in good standing with the director of nurses will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if you go regularly to church.

2017:  Graduate nurses will be offered variable or night shifts most of the time and be required to work 36 hours per week.  You can do what you wish on the other four days of the week.

1887: Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years, so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month, you should set aside $15.

2017: Please contribute to your organization’s retirement program.  It’s just a smart thing to do.

1887: Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop or frequents dance halls will give the director of nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intentions and integrity.

2017:  Wherever you are and whatever you do, you are always a nurse.  Act with integrity.

1887: The nurse who performs her labors and serves her patients and doctors faithfully and without fault for a period of five years will be given an increase by the hospital administration of five cents per day.

2017:  Every organization is different, but many have some sort of merit structure for high performing nurses.

I often hear from nurses how much things have changed.  However, when I look at these principles from 130 years ago I can’t help but think that really not much has  changed at all.  Providing excellent care to patients by professional nurses has always been what we do.  Having integrity, service skills, passion and preparedness are fundamental to our profession.  What do you think??