Nursing, along with the rest of the medical field, is constantly evolving to ensure better patient outcomes. Nursing skills, in particular, have changed quite a bit over the last several decades. Some skills have even been discarded completely for the sake of safety or efficiency. Here are 10 interesting examples of old-school nursing skills that have either drastically changed or are no longer practiced:
- Reusing syringes and urinary catheters
Believe it or not, new nurses, many of today’s disposable medical items, like urinary catheters and syringes, were made to be reused in the not-too-distant past. These items were sterilized between uses, a process that was eventually deemed too costly as disposable items became more common.
- Charting patient care on paper
While it’s still possible to find rural and small-scale clinics that utilize paper charting, the majority of health-care facilities these days chart electronically. In addition to providing all members of the health-care team with easier access to patients’ charts, electronic charting is typically more efficient and more accurate.
- Using urine dipsticks with sliding-scale insulin
Sliding-scale insulin has been in use longer than glucose meters. Before these meters were used to determine how much, if any, insulin to administer to a diabetic patient, nurses had to rely on urine dipsticks. Urine-dipstick results aren’t as accurate as those provided by glucose meters, so it’s no surprise that they aren’t used in this manner anymore.
- Regulating IV fluids manually
Before infusion pumps were invented, it was necessary to manually regulate IV fluids. To do this, nurses had to count drops and calculate drip rates for each and every patient receiving IV fluids. Now, thanks to infusion pumps, administering IV fluids is easier, more accurate, and much faster.
- Palpating for blood pressure
The vast majority of health-care facilities throughout the United States take patients’ blood-pressure measurements automatically, but this wasn’t always the case. Nurses used to rely on palpation to obtain blood-pressure measurements. To obtain a patient’s blood pressure in this manner, nurses would inflate and deflate a compression cuff while feeling for the disappearance and reemergence of the radial pulse.
- Shaving patients prior to surgery
Up until fairly recently, hairy patients had their incision sites shaved prior to surgery. New evidence suggests that this leads to an increased risk of infection, and many hospitals have eliminated this practice. Now, instead of using a razor, nurses use clippers to cut away excessive hair as a part of their preoperative preparations.
- Shaking mercury thermometers
Now that digital thermometers are used to obtain patients’ temperatures, the sight of a nurse shaking a mercury thermometer is extremely rare. In the past, however, nurses could be seen shaking mercury thermometers in hospitals on a daily basis. The reason that these old-school thermometers were shaken is that the mercury would often cling to the inner sides of the thermometer. Prior to taking a new temperature reading, bringing the majority of the mercury back down into the bulb by shaking the thermometer was the best way to ensure accuracy.
- Cutting urinary catheters during removal
While cutting urinary catheters during removal is not recommended, some nurses and doctors still utilize this practice. It’s considered unsafe for two reasons primarily. Firstly, traction on the catheter could cause it to retract into the bladder if it’s cut. Secondly, the balloon might not deflate, which turns a simple catheter removal into something much more difficult and costly.
- Irrigating NG tubes with Coca-Cola
Many old-school nurses swear by Coca-Cola for NG tube flushing. In theory, this is due to the coke’s acidity. Regardless of the reason behind this method’s supposed effectiveness, it’s not recommended as it can affect the plastic tubing. Before using coke, juice, or something similar to flush an NG tube, refer to your facility’s guidelines. More likely than not, using water when flushing an NG tube will be the preferred method.
- Treating congestive heart failure (CHF) with rotating tourniquets
CHF patients used to be treated with rotating tourniquets. Essentially, these tourniquets were applied to the lower limbs to diminish venous return. These days, however, we have a wide variety of effective diuretics that can be used to help decrease the strain that excess fluid volume puts on the heart. Not only is this treatment more comfortable for patients than applying tourniquets, it’s much more effective.
Are there any old-school nurses working with you on your unit? If so, do they still practice a few of the skills mentioned in this article? Leave a comment below and let us know!