Top Ten Ways To Spot The “Old School” Nurse

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

We sometimes hear a nurse referred to as “old school.” I take that to mean “in practice before the 1980s,” because that’s when I started!

I’m not here to stereotype or anything (and this list is made with love and respect), but I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve found certain things to be true about nurses who’ve been in the profession for, well, a while.

Here are a few observations that may help define the old school nurse! Is this you?

The Old School Nurse:

Still wears her hair ABOVE the collar at work.

Knows how to use a bath blanket and still prefers soap and water to body cleanser wipes.

Owns a case of white leather shoe polish for a VERY distinctive pair of lace-up nursing shoes.

Keeps a pack of mints in her pocket for post-op patients who have sore throats from the intubation.

Wears ONLY two pieces of jewelry to work–a wristwatch and (if married) a plain wedding band.

Keeps her school cap in a clear plastic tote on the shelf of her closet and her Nightingale Lamp in a glass display case.

Makes hospital corners on her home bed sheets.

Always carries an extra pen–with BLUE ink to distinguish an original form from a copy–just in case the doctor “forgets” to return the one he or she borrowed.

Looks the other way if something which breaks the rules is in the best interest of the patient.

Believes that nursing is a calling.

To all of the old school nurses who are still out there: Thank you and wear the cap proudly! What would you add to this list?


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine, The Nurse's Guide to Good Living.


  1. old school nurse is one old nurse who believes she knows everything and threatens the newbies with getting them fired if they don’t do her work. Oh wait, that’s called an old school “bully” who should have retired years ago.

  2. I am one of those too: the 3 day, 5/6 part State Board, waited weeks for results (and it took longer than usual even because of a security breach in another state), caps (still have mine!), white uniforms and those white support stockings – the profession doesn’t even look the same. What I wouldn’t have given to wear scrubs! That said, I don’t think it’s worse – just different. One thing I will say about us “old timers” – we will be the first to volunteer to fill in for a staffing crisis. But I think the work ethic is learned: my youngest daughter is an RN now and she is beloved on her unit because she works hard and takes initiative – something I like to think she learned from her “old timer” mom. And to Retta – YES! I remember the triple H enema! Thanks for the laugh!

  3. Just Retired at age 77. Nurses Aide 1966-67( when the hospital trained you.) LPN 1969-79, Registered Nurse 1979, BSN 1995. 24 years in the ARMY Reserves. Served during Desert Storm. All the above while a wife and mother of 3.I have loved every minute from wiping butts to wiping tears. “The Highest Calling”!!

  4. I graduated in 1974 with my BSN and knew very little. I was the charge nurse on the night shift of a 30 bed medical unit with 1 LPN and 1 wonderful Aide. The hospital was changing to “team” nursing. I took over my LPN’s position and she was not pleased. At the time I thought so much more than her. Oh boy how wrong I was! I wish she were alive today to hug and say I’m sorry. She and my head nurse taught me so much. After that I tried to do the same with every new nurse I worked with.
    I remember starting IVS with a needle and syringe to give IV antibiotics. You had to do that each time they had an iV antibiotic. So every 8 hours meant 3 sticks a day. Then you had to sit and give the antibiotic over 20 minutes. Nurses were not allowed to start angiocaths and we didn’t have butterfly needles.
    You had to wear your nursing cap at all times, even in ICU. You had to wear lace up white nursing shoes, white uniform dresses, and white nylons.
    I love being a nurse. I will never say loved being a nurse because although, I do not work any more, I will always be a nurse in my heart!

  5. I carry bandage scissors and hemo stats in my pocket every day. I like to say I was a critical care nurse “pre-dopamine” which astounds everyone I say that to. Yes that was possible! Critical care was pretty basic in the early 70s but we managed to save lives. I loved wearing my cap until the day a nursing supervisor showed up during an arrest on a patient who was trussed up with multiple lines from lower extremity trauma. I had ripped my cap off to get to the patient. The first thing out of her mouth was “where is your cap?” Really!? As soon as we were allowed to go without our caps I never wore it again. Did I miss it? Yes I did. I still have it in its clear plastic carryall.

  6. This had to have been written by an “Old School Nurse”. I could relate to everything it said. I am old school.
    Thank goodness for medical advances. I’ve always said that 30 years ago, patients got better IN SPITE OF our care!!

  7. I am grateful that I am an “old school” nurse. I loved Nursing and will always call myself a nurse. I loved my white uniform, my pen I wore and especially my cap! It meant sooo much to me.

  8. Thank you all for your great comments. I enjoyed all of them, especially in regard to nursing as a calling. I do believe that nursing is “in our blood”. My mother, now retired, graduated ADN in 1970. Having always been my role model, she was so proud of me when I followed her into nursing. She placed my nursing pin on me in 1990. I am doubly proud of my daughter, who will graduate soon with her BSN and follow in this great calling. As I told her recently, the practice of Nursing has given me personally and spiritually more than I can possibly ever give back.

  9. The first thing that comes to mind is respect for others’ positions and definitely their experience!

  10. A younger male nurse made a comment to other technicians that ” I am just an old school nurse” what does that mean in a negative way. I have been a nurse for 29 years. Doing dialysis for the last 18 years. (I am a female)

  11. I did when I started at S& W but it kept getting hung up on the ortho unit traction lines and one day fell off into the bedpan with the liquid poo in it- so That was that. 🙂

  12. How about smoking and nonsmoking patient rooms? Ash trays at the nurses desk. Looking back, I can’t believe that anyone ever thought that that was okay.

  13. As an old school nurse myself, everyone around me praises my knowledge base and years of experience. They often state ” i know everything”.No nurse no matter how many years of experience is or should be a know it all. I often say to my colleagues yes I do know alot, but any old school nurse is never afraid TO ASK. WE DONT KNOW EVERYTHING!!!

  14. I got my “calling” when I was allowed to go to work with my mom. She started as a nurses aide, then became an LPN. She “retired” when my dad retired from the military. I started my work, also, as a nurses aide, then LPN, and after my divorce, and moving back home, obtained my RN degree from Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma. I graduated from my LPN program exactly 10 years after my mother. I obtained my RN 13 years after my LPN. So, in total, I have been a nurse for 30+ years. So, yes, I am old school.

  15. You actually know how to do Try CPR…You identify to everyone in the patients room and give personal contact information for an emergency… Cry when anyone in the entire world dies…Thats me…Please don’t die Jonathan from Property Brothers and get married for goodness sake…..I could say so many more but I know to play nice in the sandbox..Hugs stay safe!! we need you.

  16. An old school nurse will always follow up a digital B/P and pulse reading with a manual pulse check. The digital machine didn’t pick up on life threatening arrhythmias.

  17. I am guilty of making hospital corners at home. But those of us who have been around 40+ years have had to evolve or move on. It’s very technology-oriented now and patients rarely spend more than a day or two in the hospital. Some days I think tech really has advanced nursing practice. Other days I long for the days when a patient was hospitalized on your floor for months and months until they were fully rehabed and walked themselves out the door. There were no rehab floors or SNFs or discharging them home with wound vacs and a PICC line.

    I felt that, in the old days, we really developed a core bond that would last a lifetime and had miracle outcomes. Now, sometimes when I am wheeling a patient out of the hospital, I wonder if I will see them back in a few days, or worse, if they will die at home alone. Most days, hospitals no longer give us the opportunity to be old-fashioned nurses. We have to contribute to the bittom line or be replaced.

  18. How about PEEP when the doc would get down on the floor and adjust the tubing in the water to create it. Or mixing your TPN and custom bags of iv dextrose!

  19. I had a 4 hr old on the pedi floor And I went into his Room to set up his Lunch tray. It was all vegetables so I asked if he was a vegetarian. He replied proudly, no I am a Presbyterian !!

  20. I have been a critical care nurse for 39-40 years. The changes I have seen ovear the years! I recall CABG patients remaining in bed for 6 days and not allowed to move a muscle. Now they are up the same day postop. I recall having to send glass syringes to distribution for sterilization, glass chest tube bottles, metal bedpans and taking them to the hopper, having to set up my own pressure monitoring tubing, piece by piece, no packaged sets like now, for the “Yellow Snake”- Swan Gantz, PA catheter. The list goes on and on!!! The best change was not having to wear those white, germ infested caps anymore!! All in all I would not change a thing! I love being a NURSE! How about you?

  21. Yes, I am an ‘Old School Nurse’ and proud of it. Received my BSN in 1977, Joined the Army in 1983, earned a MSA in 1989, MSN in 1996 and DNP in 2015. Deployed to Iraq in 2005 – 2006, Retired at the rank of COL, Army Nurse Corps in 2010, and continue to serve as I now work in a VA. Wouldn’t change it for the world.

  22. It is a bit fallacious to just use ‘her’ in all of this. Small point but it all adds up. I like it, nice laugh but really? Some of us RN’s are not female.

  23. I’m an “old school nurse” and graduated from Allentown Hospital School of Nursing in 1976. I’m proud to have a diploma degree and my education was second to none, being on the floor in the 2nd week of school. We had 24 bed open wards in some of the areas and only one wing of the hospital had air conditioning. Yes, we did what we were told by the docs but we were not expected to do half their work which it seems is expected now. I never got paid enough to do that function. When I worked Peds, there was a nap time after lunch and visitors left for an hour. When I worked mother-baby, only dads and siblings with grandparents were able to visit. We took a cart around and did PM care on 3-11, remember that? Juice, crackers and a back rub–kept the lotion in my pocket so it wouldn’t be cold. Babies stayed in the nursery until feeding time, moms actually got some rest before they had to go home. Anyone intubated was in ICU, med-surg floors were busy enough. I’ve done ambulatory care, home care, hospice, MedDRA coding, clinical research, pediatrics, geriatrics and of course, the obligatory med-surg all on my Diploma Degree. So there!

    • PM care was great!! Relaxed so many pts, gave you an opportunity to talk with pts, and a great time to assess!! Hands on care is one aspect of RN care that is deeply absent….as a nurse who has been a pt four times this past year, I can attest to this with regret. I understand how busy nurses are, especially with covid, but we have given up too much.

    • Your comment is a year old now so you will probably never see this but I worked with several diploma school nurses in my career and I always felt they were the best nurses I ever worked with, they always gave the best hands on care and could see a problem coming before it arrived. I had great respect for them

  24. 2nd comment but did not want to reply as it might be hidden.

    I am an “old nurse” but I have never stopped learning. When we stop learning we have really stopped advancing in this field and probably should hang it up. I don’t necessarily mean going back to school either, CEU’s, advances in medicine, online articles, training courses etc.

    I took TNCC for the 1st time after 28 years, just this year, with most of my career in the ED.

    I constantly look things up, to read up on lab interpretations, imaging or new procedures or medications I don’t know about, just so that I can get a better picture of what I am looking at when I look at my patient. But I don’t hoard that knowledge, I share it with the multiple young nurses I work with who have less than 3 years out of school. Why? Because no one did that when I was new. If I would have asked questions about these things, I would have been snarled at by Ms. Patty or Jeanine (Nurse Ratchet and her sister) my preceptor and the Nurse manager of the 1st hospital where I worked. There were many days when I left there in tears. I felt stupid, overwhelmed and disheartened by not knowing everything there was to know about the world of nursing in that 1st year. The only plus, the Nurse manager actually assigned me nightly homework to do on medications and critical care after work, to improve my skills and to learn about drips and triaging patients/critical situations. Was it right? Not necessarily, did I learn what I needed? You betcha! To this day I still do that sort of work when I have time, but I share the information instead of snarling at other young nurses and hope they benefit from it too.

    Another important thing we need to share with “younger nurses” is the importance of documentation. Many hospitals are pushing less is best. I do Legal chart review as a side job and I will say, there are many places, based on the charting systems, unless the RN makes an effort to insert a comment or narrative, the system used will not save them on the face value. In fact, it will be their downfall in the end. The systems in place at most facilities do not demonstrate the standard of care required by CMS, any nursing journal, or most likely even your hospital policy. If you are just checking the boxes and going with that, not attaching any comments, if something happens and that chart gets pulled for a full scouring, there won’t be anything anyone will be able to do to help in that situation. Don’t let then press you for time, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!!!!

  25. I graduated in 1992 but was an LPN for 1.5 years before that and was “called” at about age 13 to be a nurse. I was in the Military for 8 years too and get annoyed when younger nurses look at me like they know it all. I have probably forgotten more than some of them know!!

  26. The best nurses I ever worked with were those who took my hand and said ” come here, I want to show you how to do something”. I learned from so many great nurses and I hold them in high esteem because they took the time to teach and demonstrate good technique. Hats off to nurses to all nurses who like to help each other!

  27. I have to say this is pretty accurate!! I am 1(the youngest) of a multi generational fam of nurses along with other healthcare professionals going back to WWII. I can remember my Grandma’s Nursing cap a little, but the one I REMEMBER the most is my MOM’S in that same clear plastic protective hat box!! Not only does she still have it, she at the age of 71 is still working full time as an RN at the hospital! And yes she may be an old school NURSE, but I can’t think of a better hero and Role model for ever new generation of nurses!!

  28. I was trained to be a nurse when we really had nothing to justify why something was done and we gave credit to the physician for everything.
    add to the old school list getting up and giving up your chair in the nurses station a physician when he entered the desk area! (females could not be doctors, nursing was our area back then)
    Yes, I am old school and I proudly claim it. I was called to nursing, I believe it is a passion and Nursing was the only thing I ever wanted to do. 3 year diploma nurse here (translated all nursing done in the hospital and you lived in an attached residence. Back in the day, the hospital you trained at, your hospital, hired you. No so anymore and I am glad!). Times have changed and nursing has had to change as well. I went back to school thru my MSN and now I teach nursing students. I am proud to be able to compare and contrast nursing education from mine to current. It helps them realize nursing is a fluid profession and we cannot stay in the past.
    As far as the list of things, I match them all. My best memory… 3 first year students on a ward (old term) and we showed the BSN (only one, as students staffed everywhere at no pay) how to care for patients with Chest tubes and insertion of a foley cath! Old school is NOT bad. I agree with the entry stating we are causing this on ourselves. we refer to OLD school but folks hear OLD. Old folks from this era now are so different from years past. Age discrimination exists as folks have stereotyped the elderly. Gray hair in a doctor’s office gets me talked to like a child, yelled at, and assumed not to have a job, and have all the time in the world. I actually have had said to me “you’re to old to be working”. I am older then my grandparents were when they passed and my life is nothing like theirs. Grandma is not always there!! Age is a number and each person knows when best to retire.

    • I am an “old” nurse in my mid 70’s who did not go to Nursing school until my 40’s. Not a week goes by when I am not asked when I am going to retire. I finally have reached the point when they ask that I say why do you think Paul McCartney still works? I love practicing as a nurse. I work 12 hour shifts and can work up to 7-10 days consecutively when needed while young nurses are dragging on their 3rd day. They have no self discipline. What bothers me with the young nurses is their sitting at the NS with CNAs sitting with them talking and laughing instead of taking care of patients while I answer lights and toilet patients. When the CNAs work my station I make them do their job and they hate it. I have been told that this is the new generation and that I need to get used to it–that they have to have fun at work too. I say fun comes after patient care. Many of these CNAs are our future nurses. I see pressure ulcers and UTIs on the horizon along with urosepsis and other infections. I fear for my profession and future patients.

    • I am an old school BSN RN & I did learn how to do procedures in school, not after I graduated. I faced the backlash of the hospital grads who told me I didn’t learn anything in nursing school & proved them wrong! I went on to have a 40+ nursing career & was proud to work with RN’s from hospital schools & 2 year associate degree nurses. We all learned from each other. One of the things I always told new nurses was to never stop asking questions – we all continue to learn. I am sad to see some of the changes in nursing. I miss the “old school@ nurses.

  29. I am a male and at the end of my career ( plan to retire in 6 years) and have 2 sons that are interested in and have started their nursing education. I would recommend being a nurse (and do) to anyone thinking about a career. I would always tell them that nurses are more born than made. There has to be a core of your person that actually wants to take care of a stranger. You have to do very unpleasant things and want to do it because you will help the patient. I am still active at the bedside and look forward to being apart of our recruitment and retention committee. I do have HUGE concerns about the future of nursing. Everyone knows the projected numbers and I do not see more people turning to nursing without salaries increasing. 30 years ago I became a nurse in part because salaries increased. I was living in upstate NY and all the hospitals began Baylor programs and other staffing plans that enable nurses to make much more money. I believe that this will naturally happen. I have ALWAYS believed that if nurses were unionized that we could rule the world. We have power that most people do not realize. Here is hoping that some where down the line we are able to implement the California laws throughout the country.

    • I have been a nurse for 49 years and still going. I think the mindset has changed re: nursing careers for the new graduates and younger people entering nursing. We were so eager to learn and become proficient at the techniques and procedures we would be required to do. We totally accepted the weekends and the holiday commitment. I had one new nurse who was shell shocked when the Xmas schedule came out and she was on. She was single and had no kids! She asked me if it was a mistake because she told the manager she couldn’t work that day!!! She also asked me if I could work for her!! I just don’t get it!!!

      • Hahaha! Christmas surprise! Unfortunately, as a nursing professor, we do see a number of young, entitled folks going into nursing for all the wrong reasons! I will say, we DO try to weed them out because, yes, I believe it IS a calling and as an RN you have to give so much of yourself— and want to! I was late to nursing, 45, but made the most of it, love it, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

  30. If we placed all the comments about “Old school”,old, outdated, all the comments, in a different context we would be called prejudiced or some other general defining word. There are many problems in nursing, many of which has to do with the nurses (mostly women) being competitive instead of being a team member. A team is usually comprised of people wanting the same outcome, not individuals each working for their own goal or outcome. Age has little to do with anything, experience has everything to do with all of it. You can read books and take tests till the moon turns blue, but until you have seen it and done it you can’t ‘know’. If we could somehow stop looking at someone else’s hairdos, shoes, clothes, age and simply keep the bar raised high, wouldn’t it be good. We are not in a competition or a race; if anything we are in a race for life: our own lives and the lives of those counting on us. We should try to make it the best we can. BTW every young nurse will get old with time, every young nurse will gain experience and the rest of the nurses should be helping them learn and not faulting them for what they can’t know.(because they have not done ‘it’ yet) Where’s the love and the acceptance and the support and teamwork. Where is the nurse to nurse respect. Think we may have shot the profession in the foot? I love being a nurse and I want to love it even more even when I am old.

    • Excellent comment! Thank you for your input! I love being a nurse as well. When I was a new nurse, there were some really harsh and hateful nurses that treated me beneath them. Then there were nurses that took me under their wing and fostered me. I am grateful to those kind nurses that helped me learn and become experienced. I now as an older nurse with years of experience enjoy every opportunity helping and fostering new nurses!

  31. Hazel, I love you !!! I went into nursing in 1957 and wore the “Old Cadet Uniform”. I did all the things you talked about and graduated in 1957. I was the FIRST student to be allowed to marry when I was 4 months from graduation and my husband was in the Navy…BUT he was not allowed to live in the dorm with me when he was home on leave. That was all ironic as my mother was asked to leave the same school when she was a senior because they found out she was married. She was working pediatrics and caught Scarlet Fever and they found out about her marriage. I graduated in 1960.
    I worked nights in the ER and one of my extra duties was washing and hanging the rubber gloves up to dry and then putting them in the Powder machine.
    I learned to use the Iron Lung by being put in one for more minutes than I liked.
    Knowing Waganstein suctions saved the day when I worked a disaster in the late 80’s.
    I learned how to function as THE NURSE when the Flu epidemic in 1957 took down most of our nurses and docs and I was a lowly freshman but only one RN to guide me on an 18 bed solarium. Now there’s a word nurses don’t hear today. So many sick patients we used the “solarium” and had 18 beds with green Oxygen tanks chained to the beds. Course this was years behind “wall oxygen”.
    Myfamily had lots of nurses. Great Aunt Jennie graduated from Bellvue, NYC in 1900; my Aunt Helen worked as scrub nurse in the OR and Mother was a nurse…what else could women do and be respected….most of the time… what with wars going on.
    I’m 80 this year and still the one asked for my opinion by other nurses or docs. I work Disaster Response and love it.

  32. Yes, I’m an old school nurse with an MSN and proud of it. I also am contracted by State Boards of Nursing to provide education to those nurses whose license were suspended when they decided to “break the rules when it is in the best interest of the patient.”
    I have considered unsubscribing from this ans I now will do it. You are advising that it is okay to break laws and place patients in danger. New nurses, please do not take this advise.

    • This is clearly a blog and not EBP. It would be prudent for all nurses to realize fact from fiction. Tribal knowledge is dangerous.

    • well, I am an old school nurse because I believe that nurses have brains and can assess, diagnose and implement a plan. They can take the standards as a guideline and assess how the patient will benefit. Not everyone falls into the protocols that MSN’s write without working as a floor nurse for more than 6 months. congratulations on your achievements but don’t “diss” the old school nurses experience. I was trained to take my education and apply that education for better care of the patient!. It’s really sad that nursing has turned into following standards and protocols and not treating patients as individuals. I think the worse thing for nursing is the selling out of nurses by MSN’s

      • Protocols are a starting point for standards and an end point for those who lack critical thinking skills. Standards are a starting point for nursing care, but a good nurse is able to discern patient needs and apply common sense to meet those needs.

  33. Who remember HHH enemas? What about icing your cardiac output in ICU? Putting blue dye in tube feedings? Oxygen therapy for peri excoriation? My list is long too! I am proud to have been called and served as a nurse through the last 5 decades. Caps off to all the “old school nurses” out there. In my experience very few of us ate our young. Most of us were glad to share our knowledge and experience.

    • Yes it is sadly a different world now, I work in a situation that does not seem to value experience. In fact I am schooled frequently in the ways the newer generation of nurses want care to be provided. There are still many of us out there who would love to mentor and pass on our knowledge and love of nursing. Wish more of the contemporary nurses would see bedside nursing as a calling instead of only a stepping stone to advanced practice and getting as far away from the bedside as possible.

    • totally agree, this “eating the young” is a new phenomenon perpetuated by a few( very few) entitled ones who bristle at anyone who is not them. I was and always will be grateful for any help as well as sharing of any knowledge. Graduated back in the stone age( used an autoclave and even sharpened needles lol) at that time the ” old nurses” told us we had only begun our education and it was our duty to keep learning til we were done. BTW still working part time but no longer at bedside.

      • They have been “eating their young” since I came out 28+ years ago. The know it all’s could use a few “HHH’s to clear their minds so they can sit back and learn a little from those of us with some experience!

    • I agree with Retta. I have been a nurse over fourty years and I remember HHH enemas but not the rest of what is mentioned. I am proud to be an “old school nurse”. We did not eat our young. I remember what it was like to be green and I didn’t forget how that felt. I was always more than willing to share my knowledge and experience with new nurses. From what I’ve seen of newer nurses us older gals are leaving the patients in good hands. Maybe not as good as ours were in our day but they have very different technology and patient care is so much safer today.

  34. I’m not really an old school nurse, however I have been in the nursing field since 1980 as a CNA, before becoming a Nurse. My mentor is an old school nurse and has taught me some of her old school ways.
    I miss the time that is spent with patients/residents. “new” nurses of the last decade seem to come to work, pop a pill, move on to the next. They “don’t have time” to do what we old school nurses do. Offer the extra TLC. Answer the call light ourselves. Don’t expect the CNA’s to do it all. A nurse can bathe and toilet a resident too. Most of the newer nurses I have worked with will hunt down an aide to report a need. The time she spent looking for her, usually helping someone else, the nurse could have done it herself.

  35. I got my BSN in 1973 from a small catholic college. Since I had received an Army Nurse Corps scholarship for my last 2 years, I began my nursing career in the US Army AFTER waiting 6 weeks for board results. I was forced to wear the Army Nurse cap which I ditched as soon as I was allowed. We had to wear 3 holed white shoes, white stockings, and no jewelry. If you were married and got pregnant, you were asked to leave the service. This was the age of glass and metal. How many times did I hear a crash and run to find blood spurting out the top of the broken IV bottle? ( I can remember the talk about plastic IV bottles in the future which we all thought was crazy). We started IV’s, did respiratory treatments, and cleaned the beds. I knew how to count and calculate drips and stripped all the IV’s I hung. We used glass thermometers and glass syringes. In my 44 years as a nurse….I just retired…I LOVED working with new nurses. It was always my opinion that a unit needed the young, energetic, current knowledge people along with the older more experienced people. This balance offered the best outcome for patients.

  36. I’m an old school diploma nurse and proud of it. I still believe we are the most clinically sound nurses around. We were on the floor from the first year of nursing school. Our instructors made sure we knew our stuff before we even touched a patient. I ‘ve read articles and heard administrators write that having BSNs result in better outcomes. Sorry, I don’t agree. I had a conversation with one of those four-year wonders. She was going in for her own gallbladder surgery. We were discussing what life would be like after her lap chole. She didn’t have any idea that the gallbladder had anything to do with the GI system. A friend of mine who had abdominal surgery was interviewed by a matriculating MSN. That nurse “followed” her for 6 hours. One of the last questions “Mary Matriculator” asked her was, “Have you ever had abdominal surgery?” Probably couldn’t get her eyes off her smart phone long enough to look at the chart!

    • I stated as an ADN and felt like I had more experience coming in than any of the new BSNs. I went back to school to get my BSN. I am not sure why it matters. I did it because it is the thing to do. I did not lean anything new getting my BSN. It’s just a really expensive feather in my cap.

    • Agree totally! I went to a 3 yr Diploma school in OH 1971 & have worked very busy LTAC units with fresh post op Open Heart patients with post op complications…requiring complicated wound care, dialysis, Vents etc. only to be told I must help BSN RN new grads how ‘to do bedside nursing’…which I did time & time again (knowing the BSN was being paid twice my pay)

  37. Graduated as a diploma RN in 2014, so I’m still pretty new. While not everything on this list is familiar to me, but I was lucky enough to be taught by amazing “old school” nurses that taught lots of things you can’t learn in a classroom. Our hair was always up, clean white uniforms…We were on the unit our 2nd week, doing hands on patient care – giving bed baths, putting patients on bedpans, getting them ice water… I’m thankful that I went through a diploma program.

    • I too went through a diploma program. I have never regretted it and have been thankful for it. Over the years I completed a BSN, MSN, CNS and Nurse Practitioner credentials. During all of this I continually thanked my lucky stars that I started out as a diploma grad. Yes I am old school (graduated with diploma in 1969) and extremely proud of it. I am now retired but still miss many of my patients. As nursing evolved, I saw patients get “lost” behind a computer at the bedside. Yes, I had to use the computers, too, but I always made time to step away and talk directly with the patients. Sometimes I would ask if I could hold their hand when I saw them distraught with fear of what was happening to them. I never lost this from the “old school” education I received. Patients still need the” human” factor more than the “computer” factor. I remember nearly all the things mentioned on the lists above and I’m proud to be “old school”.

  38. Graduated LPN school 1983. 3 day test for my license. Waited for weeks for my “pass.” Worked aa OB scrub tech, Dr’s office, LTAC, nursing home, home care as an LPN. Remember cleaning instuments and prepping them for autoclave, SS enemas, counting drip rates, paper charting, calling MDs “doctor,” NOT by their first names, hand cranking beds. I also remember graduating oldest in my BSN class in 2006, mother to 5 kids, computer licensing test with auto “shut off,” wearing scrubs, computer charting, and a constant stream of ‘Best Practice’ changes in nursing care. To be honest, I am an “old school” nurse first, but have embraced the new ways of practice…sometimes grudgingly…but recognizing that the old ways are NOT always best. I see new nurses who are afraid to get their hands dirty, and old ones who “eat their young.” However, I also see many of both who are dedicated to excellence, and treat their patient’s like family! I will always address MDs as “doctor,” and chart in mainly narrative style (I have a hard time with charting by exception), but I will always give my best to every patient…every shift, for as long as I have the privilege to practice! Nurses need to support each other…our job is HARD! We need to respect each other and HELP one another get through those days, where everything is heaped on us in a tangled mess! We need to be kind to one another, as some patients see us as maids, waiters and waitresses, and punching bags, and a Golden Ticket to riches. We need to be willing to put aside outdated practices (for the ‘old school’), but embrace ones that have stood the test of time (for the ‘newbies’). Most of all, we need to remember that we are here for the patient, and that we should be following the Golden Rule when dealing with everyone!

    • Very well said! I would only add that in my 35 years of practice as an RN from a diploma program (but earned my BSN for the initials) who has worked for 90% of my career as a psychiatric nurse, that nursing as a profession still needs to see all types of nursing as “real” nursing. To me “real” nursing has less to do with the type of nursing activities you perform and more to do with the ability and willingness to practice the ART of nursing; being willing to open yourself up to make room for the persons we support and care for and THEIR needs, goals and desires, putting ours in the back of our minds. Listening, really actively listening, can be exhausting and my fellow nurses who make their best efforts to actively listen are among the truly special. Society needs ALL our special skills, talents and God-given traits to meet the needs of those seeking care. Many “new” nurses are completing their nursing cirriculuums in schools more interested in cranking out the # (not quality) of nurse and keeping their pass rates high to be competitive. This is not the fault of those “new” nurses. Some may find that nursing is not for them when they begin to actually work in the ART of nursing but many have the passion and desire to be the type of nurse they have observed or dreamed about. We need to support these nurses and use constructive criticism so they may grow into the nurses that match the persons we care for dreams. Love the art of what we do and assist others when we can-we need each other for support, not just in a health care settings but also in positions of advocacy for our patients AND our profession!

      • I agree. I started in the early 80’s, but now we have to do so much more charting/filling out forms, leaving less time for care. It’s all about lawsuit prevention now, it’s not as pleasant, and there is less real interaction and care. Jen T RN

    • When we learn better ways, we should do them. Science has changed best practices. So our experiences have to take a back seat to evidence. Mode Ts are admired as antiques; but we’ve made lots of happy progress!! And the world is better for it.

  39. I think I’ve actually met SOME of you. Do you remember me? I’m the student you dismissed during clinicals before you even said Hello, if you even bothered to say Hello. You were jaded and cold and threatened. You had made up your mind before you had taken the time to get to know me. You were so busy complaining about the new nurses and practicing your Old School nursing, (some of which is just plain dangerous) that you couldn’t find time to even smile at me or my classmates. We couldn’t possibly have been worthy. You are the Nurses that “Eat their young.” Thankfully not all of you, but I hear that distinction and disturbing tone loud and clear in some of the comments.

    And btw, I have no tats, my uniforms were always clean and free of wrinkles, shoes professional nursing type. Hair always neat and above my collar. Didnt matter, those are just excuses, if you treated new nurses half as humanely as you say you treat your patients nursing would be a better place.

    • Very well said, Jennifer. I was treated so badly on my first clinical site, I never went back to that hospital. I recall another nurse walking down the hall with a big smile on her face saying” I’m heading for the cafeteria. I have a student.”

      • Sad you feel this way. You are unappreciative and rude and could have spoke up to all the bitty’s or reported them. We are not all that way and we also put up with the crabasses.

    • I am very sorry you had such a terrible experience. I apologize for the unprofessional behavior of those that made you feel that way. Please know that I am an old school nurse, and like me, there are many old school nurses that embrace and cherish all young nurses coming to the field. Please keep in mind that good manners and respect are the keys to open all the doors you want. Always keep your composure, and move on, the world needs you.

      • That makes me extremely sad. As a nurse of 49 years, I loved the “newbies”, took them under my wings as they were scared of making a mistake. I was the mother hen who listened, comforted and encouraged the “newbies”. Unfortunately as an “old nurse” who wants to work part time, the newer administrations always have an excuse to not hire and I know it is age. Too bad as there are plenty of us who have learned the new skills and best practices and would like to continue. Minds do not retire. Body’s can get arthritic, backs ache but there are lots of things “old nurses” can do and learn. I am also very sorry that any “new nurse” has to go through these sink or swim on your own times. It distresses me as I may need nursing care in another 20 years. My family lives with good brains into their 90’s. I’m not dead yet just a little slower physically but mentally quite competent and still learning. Good luck all you new nurses. Please hang in and make changes in nursing that are good for patients. The ART of nursing.

    • And I am one of the dinosaurs that has taken a nursing student voluntarily with me every day on my patient rounds caring for wound care patients.

  40. I graduated in 1991 where tradition was still very strong in the profession of nursing. Of the old school list, I have a few comments LOL:

    1. Still wears her hair ABOVE the collar at work. (Never been an issue; my military background means that I haven’t had hair longer than the nape of my neck since I was 10, except for a rebellious 6 month period when I turned 40)

    2. Knows how to use a bath blanket and still prefers soap and water to body cleanser wipes. (HATE cleanser!!! I would rather just use a good face cloth and quality soap)

    3. Owns a case of white leather shoe polish for a VERY distinctive pair of lace-up nursing shoes. (Hard to find good duty shoes; but my shoes have remained LEATHER and are mostly WHITE)

    4. Keeps a pack of mints in her pocket for post-op patients who have sore throats from the intubation. (This practice is not really acceptable any longer, but I do make sure that we have some of the anesthetic type of lozenges on the unit)

    5. Wears ONLY two pieces of jewelry to work–a wristwatch and (if married) a plain wedding band. (Isn’t a stethoscope considered jewelry??? LOL!)

    6. Keeps her school cap in a clear plastic tote on the shelf of her closet and her Nightingale Lamp in a glass display case. (Might be a man, but I DO have a cap and yes, it is kept in a plastic tote)

    7. Makes hospital corners on her home bed sheets. (For me, more of a military influence rather than nursing school…)

    8. Always carries an extra pen–with BLUE ink to distinguish an original form from a copy–just in case the doctor “forgets” to return the one he or she borrowed. (Kinda; I usually carry a couple of multi-coloured pens, a dual-tipped “sharpee” marker for marking invasive lines)

    9. Looks the other way if something which breaks the rules is in the best interest of the patient. (With extreme caution — I am too cute for prison and I am not losing my license because I incorrectly assessed something to be in the best interest of the patient – in today’s world of law suit, I practice much differently today than I did in the 90’s).

    10. Believes that nursing is a calling. (Always have – in fact, to this day, I still would continue to practice if conditions were the same as they were when I graduated. There was actually competition for positions, pay was considerably less, missed meal/coffee breaks were just “part of the job” etc.)

    And my own list!

    11. Believe that a sizeable group of today’s nurses (not all, but some) went into nursing because pay and benefits are considerable better given the length of required training, and the huge glut of available jobs and anticipated mass retirement of currently serving nurses.

    12. Can still time drip rates with both the micro and macro drip IV lines, and know how to use a buretrol.

    13. Recalls when syringes had both CC and “MINIM” markings on them.

    14. Knows that the wide bulb is for the rectal thermometer and the thin bulb for oral

    15. Still refers to the Assistant Unit Manager as an “asshead” (Assistant Head Nurse).

    16. Still argues that the 2 year Diploma RN’s is superior training over a 4 year Degree RN — who, by the way, are nurses who want to be managers.

    17. Knows how to gatch, Fowlers, Trendelenburg/Reverse Trendelenburg a bed with manual “cranks”

    18. Has inadvertently left the hospital with narcotics keys in his/her pocket.

    I could likely go on forever LOL

  41. I graduated from my Diploma program in 1974. As a man, I was told that they always need nurses in Urology and Psychiatry. Fortunately I and Nursing have come along way.

  42. I so enjoyed everyone s comments, it brought back so many memories!
    Graduated from LPN school in 1970, got RN with AAS degree in 1983, and BS in 1997.
    Worked in hospitals, nursing homes, and in Doctor offices, then home care.
    Currently working with the severely mentally ill in a community and Group home setting.
    Everything mentioned was so true.
    Nursing is a vocation, a true calling of the heart.
    I have always said PLEASE to not become a nurse if you don t love people deeply.
    Because you won t like them when they re sick!!
    I will ALWAYS proudly be an old school nurse.
    Thank you for the memories!!!

    • hats off to you Nancy! I too have worked Locked Units on Psych, Open units, teen units & then out in our Community at County Homes & as a Independent Provider for state. Some nurses fear these settings but I learned tons of compassion & empathy.

  43. The day I graduated from my diploma nursing program in 1997, I put that nursing cap behind the rear tire of my car and never looked back. Getting my diploma was one of the hardest things I had accomplished in my life. I graduated at the age of 40. My husband said it was my “mid-life career crisis”. I’ll never forget that during orientation, one of the instructors said, if you have a child and a part time job, you will NOT make it through this program…HELLO! I had three kids under the age of 6 and a full time job! Yes, the job did get scaled back, but I made it through. One of the differences between us Old School nurses and the nurses today is that no one told them that they could not do something. So they just do it, just like me! I do have to take time and give credit to the incredible growth that I have had since becoming a nurse. I had an amazing preceptor. I could not believe how patient she was, just the picture of a perfect nurse. So I asked her “how is it that you are so kind and patient?” She blew me away when she said “I am a selfish woman. When you see grace, it is because of Jesus!” Looking back now, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. After ten years of being in the ICU, ten years of working in Dialysis (staff nurse, teaching, managing and then home therapy) and now in home health/hospice. If you have the desire, you can make it your own.

  44. I would say if a nurse does not feel that nursing is a calling, then there are huge disappointments ahead -for the nurse and the patients that she pseudo-serves. Lose the pride, humble yourself and give all in the service of others…that is nursing. Everyone else should become Airline stewards or makeup clerks at the local department stores. Ready the bio of Florence Nightingale to understand the meaning behind what you have committed to becoming and do not dishonor that creed.

  45. I graduated in 2001 and honestly I’m kind of bummed we didn’t get the little white cap!! LOL If even just for it’s historical significance in honoring those who blazed the trail!!

    • True story, in 1985, I went to work in my all white uniform and forgot my nursing cap, the Director of Nursing went to her office , folded a piece of paper, brought it back and with a paper clip affixed it to my head! Me … Not missing the cap AT ALL ! 🙂

    • Look up Kay’s caps on a search engine. You will have limited choices, but you will have a cap with or without the black band.

  46. Talent given by and called to from God Himself. I never knew a nurse. I never had a family member admitted to a hospital. I never knew anything about it. My HS Guidance Counselor said you are good in math and science maybe you should look into something in the healthcare field, and said “my wife is a nurse and she went to X school”. So I applied to X school and went into Nursing. It was a journey and a huge challenge for me. But since the very proud day I graduated in 1983 I have loved my profession! I am a people person. I am a nurturer to the core. I am empathetic. And I know there are differences at the bedside because I have had many patients say to me “Thank you so much for listening to me and spending the time that you have with me, I know how busy you are!” It’s just those few extra moments that make a difference a lot of time. *One of those times the patient had a BAD case of bedbugs along with his CHF and COPD exacerbation, and the whole decontamination process in place, with spacesuits and sticky flooring. He cried and said the other staff just opened the door and asked if he needed anything but didnt pass the threshold. I garbed up and did the full assessment and asked about his whole family, to find out that they all had big beautiful homes and that he was the only “disgrace” to the family but he refused any of their offers to help. An empathetic ear goes a long way.

  47. Yes, I’m a old school nurse too. Graduate from catholic hospital school of nursing in 1981. Was last class in my area to take the 5 part 3day long state board test. Waited weeks for a “regular mail” letter to say you past! Hoping not to get a “certified letter” that was to notify you that you failed. It was stressful. Now the new nurses just get on a computer and maybe 45 minutes later if they answer enough questions right it shuts off and that’s it. During nursing school you went in the night before and researched your pt and did drug cards on every drug and studied and memorize those drugs. If you did not know your stuff or did not dress correctly you go sent home. Now When I get student nurses who come for a clinical day where I work, if you ask them what a “basic” med is, they don’t know!!! They pull out their phone to look it up! ( usually after you’ve suggested they look it up)! These are seniors! They show up to clinical where leggings and riding boots and don’t understand why you tell them it’s not appropriate. They always say they want to be an ER or ICU nurse, because it’s “exciting “. I encourage them to be medsurg for at least their first year so they can be well round and get best after school education so that their practice is not limited. I’ve read many of the “old school “ nurse stories and I relate to all, excluding mixing my own IVPB and IV fluids etc… We as old schools have a lot of stories. How about management who say that old nurses don’t like change! I say, I don’t mind change if it works, but the reason old nurses buck changes are probably because we’ve seen that change before and it didn’t work! I would like old nurses to be more respected for their opinions and history and knowledge instead just saying “ oh you’re just old school….”. I say to all old school nurses…..WELL DONE & BRAVO !!!! And new nurses…. seek out the old school nurse and learn all she has to share!!!

    • I graduated in 1976 and I still don’t connect with alot of what is defined as “old school”. Yeah, we’ve been around awhile and know a few things. But , though I have a cap, have I ever worn it? Well not in this millenia! Did I learn a few things from nurses older than me? You bet. And all would benefit from knowing some of those things. We’re in this together and those of us who’ve “been around” are in the best position to help redefine what is important for the future. If we define ourselves as “old” I would hope that would not separate us from those who are a part of “us”. We are all as committed to doing this as any of us ever were. Of course the world, medicine is different and will continue to change. Who do I want as my nurse as I age? I want someone as committed as I was at their age. All new nurses, young nurses, experienced nurses… we are all a part of an extraordinarily strong and committed and NEEDED part of EVERYBODY’s future. We are family and we need to be there for each other. We understand your value and I thank you.

    • I am an old school nurse and proud of it. Mid way through our freshman year we had a capping ceremony. How very proud we all were . It was a formal celebration parents and other family members were invited. I loved the formality. . Our hair could not touch our collar no problem for me Our shoes polished with clean shoe laces . We had outstanding clinical instructors we were taught well Because of our excellent training we were all confident in the care and procedures we performed. As a graduate we had a black stripe on our cap. I carried my cap in a pretty plastic bag . A proud moment to have our caps with the black stripe. If I were to go back into nursing ,I would wear a white uniform and my cap. My first job was in “premie nursery . Because these little ones did not have a sucking reflex we kept them hydrated by giving them a clysis. Interesting enough my little Yorkie was suffering from kidney disease and the doctor prescribed two clysis dailly. I found it amusing that the staff never referred to the treatment as a clysis and when I described it as such they had no idea what I was talking about. I believe they referred to it as a sub cutaneous infusion . When did that happen? I’ve really enjoyed reading about “Old School Nurse.

    • thanks Pam for reminding me of how in nursing school we would go the night before to research our patients and yes do the drug cards on every medication and oh how about the nursing care plans we had to present to our instructors. Thanks for the memories!

    • Excellently stated. Everyone thinks these young nurses are so great. I’ve never seen one get up o out of their chair and go
      Into the patients room when I visit friend or family member. I think they are lazy!!! They have the use of computers for their notes- we had pen and paper and many nights sat in the corner in the dark so we wouldn’t be bothered and wrote our notes after our shift was over!!! I’m very disappointed in these younger nurses. PleSe don’t clump in their group!!! I worked to hard for too many years to be considered one of them!!! PROUD TO BE AN OLD NURSE!!!!

    • I graduated the same year as you and “blended” my career. I worked in the Arts and as an RN. If you added up all my full time work it likely adds up to 30 years. I’ve worked in many areas EXCEPT Critical care. I work part-time in Palliative Care and stepped up to work 32 hours a week in the hospital thru the Pandemic and when I shared my concern on Twitter that our country is relaxing “too soon” with regards to the Delta Variant and the fact that we have stalled with vaccines, I was mocked and sneered at for working part-time and the suggestion was I was unskilled and “not a real nurse.” I have ALWAYS been proud of being a Registered Nurse and have MORE than done my time, but this current situation with all the horrible, divisive behavior by the public has really soured me. Nurses NEVER entered this field to risk their lives and the lives of their family each time they walked into their place of work. But 99 percent did it and many came out of retirement to do just that. And many have died. The indifference to vaccinating, social distancing and mocking those wearing masks is a thumb in the eye to all those who have risked their lives this past year. I’m tired of people telling me not to take it personally, because it is… Rant done.

    • Me too Pam, took my test in the Armory hot as H too!! yep had to look up all pts , and prepare mentally what they needed, no I didnt stand when a MD came in the room, but some did, we smoked at the nurses station, then I moved to ICU boy I saw things I never in my life imagined, to keep some alive, to help some die – the first AIDS patients , we dressed like we were on the moon, isolated them, put DNR;s in the room with them, neither would live, now look, they live a whole lifetime!! saw procedures at the bedside, they don’t even do now, loved my nursing I was so good at what I did, I was in the right place at the best time, still there as an NP , going to retire maybe 3 maybe 5 years cant imagine my life without the comradery of my nurses, and my MA’s as they are now called. God bless us all, we helped change humanity and didn’t even know it.

  48. So many of these comments brought forth giggles along with a lot of memories. LPN Graduate of 1975, then ADN 1985. Very proud to be part of a profession that has endured so many healthcare changes. Worked as an operating room nurse before the times of Laparoscopic Surgery where all surgeries where “Open” surgeries unless they were “Locals”. The technologies that has progressed this profession is staggering at times, but as nurses we all have mastered somewhere along the line the skill of adaptability – this too is unique for our profession. My proudest moment in my career was sitting in an auditorium watching my daughter graduate from an ADN nursing program. She grew up spending many a night on the sofa of an “on-call” room while her mother was called into work for some emergency surgical event. For there were very little options for a single mom during her on-call rotation in the OR. Thank goodness for that room with TV and plenty of crackers and peanut butter (a MUST staple in the OR lounge). As from all the above comments we are sharing, it is evident that this profession is a family affair, an affair with values and a strong sense of caring for one another, be it our family, our patients, and equally important one another. I have truly enjoyed this ride.

    • Yes, one year OR with on call and single mother. Many great friends who kept my child for me to work and then there was night shift…one I worked many years. What I see as nursing aide instructor has been that loss of community where your neighbors became great friends and we helped each other out especially during the hard time. Other nurses who went to get a burger after work, kept each others kids, listened to our struggles and heart aches as nurses. Diploma school education 1970to BSN 1996. Lived in a dormitory and we Had to learn to get along, talk out differences and conflicts. WE had lights out at a certain time, could go out on dates only on weekends, had a house mother (really treated us like a mother). Best part of my life! Made lifelong friends who still give support and I give to them. Most importantly, most of the diploma nurses in my class got BSN and MSN, NP’s. Never quite learning! New nurse, you are the future. You go girls and boys!

  49. Graduated from 1968 from a 3 year (33 months) diploma school program… worked 2 years peds then ER for almost 30 years… then to Nurse informatics… now am teaching at a local Jr college…. CNA’s
    Love it as it is basic nursing practice… my CNAs know how to make hospital corners… wear their hair up and are taught the basics of observation. They know I’m old fashioned.. and laugh when I never wear gloves when teaching procedures.. ( but make them wear gloves) I tell them stories of sterilization of needles and running on cotton to find burrs, wiping down all furniture and removing flowers at bedtime… using ekg machine running on the floor for our ‘monitors’.. SAwing bicarb vials so you could snap them open during codes… with glass syringes… rotating tourniquets.. cleaning my own bird and Bennett machines… using Skultedus binders with safety pins..

    Ahh I could go on and on

    • sawing open glass vials? Do they still do that? OMG haven’t done that in…..??
      Scultetus binders… does anyone still know what that is?
      Best memory is an 80+ yr. old nurse/patient teaching me how she wanted her mustard plaster…. by God it worked! Why would we not let young nurses know this works?

      • What is a mustard wrap? I graduated as a LPN 1978 and as an AAS in 1982 and BSN 2007 and MSN as an APN in 2009- honey I am old!! Glass syringes, flowers out of ICU, rotating tourniquets, sitting with my chart in front a patients bed while on a continuous recalibrating q 15 because of all the med changes being done as he had 2 balloon pumps afterload and preload reduction ( he was not going to make it but none of us gave up) CAAVH changes at the bedside having to make executive decisions to turn them off as there wasn’t enough staff- having patients tell me when they went to the white light and returned fast as could be- could see all of us working on him and swooshed back into reality- Now I work with the underserved population and it is hard – I am tired and complain daily. But I wouldn’t change a thing- my patients need me and I need them too.

      • Graduated in ‘68. We had metal everything: bedpans, wash basins, emisis basins, urinals, wooden wheel chairs, glass syringes and IV bottles. We mixed our own IVs and IVPBs. We sawed thru glass vials. Loved getting my cap but did not enjoy wearing it. Does anyone remember a cardex and actually doing rounds at the beginning n end of shifts. Narc count off?? Justifying before u leave. Forgot the Code cart check. Know how many patients are on O2? How full is their humidity bottle? Is that a 24 hr tube feeding or just kinked? Now clogged. How much is left in those IV bags before you take the shift? Who is running on empty n who’s is infiltrated? Did that Foley bag fill up in one hour or no one emptied it? Rounds are a good thing.

        • You sound like you graduated from HUP in Philadelphia. As a student that’s all the stuff we had to do and know about the pts.class of 1966 hup. Do u remember wind tunnels? Before hypothermia! Put a fan pointed at Pt with a high temp pack them in ice underarms etc then put sheets over rails and Pt turn on fan . Worked like a charm!!

        • Bedpan flusher on the wall. Got sprayed good when I tried it the first time. Didn’t shut the door. Laughed my butt off.

  50. I love my cap! Wearing it was a signal to patients that the RN was on the scene. I guess there was a sense of pride in all that. I am an “old nurse” and so value all of my experiences. Nursing has provided me with the opportunity to serve others. Service to others gives more joy back to me than any effort I put forward. I have been a patient in the recent years and I find it funny how nurses do not touch the patients unless absolutely necessary. It seemed taboo. At that low point in my life I needed touch, but certainly did not get it. I would have paid large sums of money to get a backrub! I say BRING BACK THE BACKRUBS and TOUCH THE PATIENTS!.
    Now, lets compare “old nursing” to “new nursing”.

    • I have noticed that when visiting in the hospital. No touching the patient. No listening to the patient. I’m a perfectionist- maybe nursing lead me to be one or maybe my personality lead me to be one. But I always thought we were there for the PATIENT!!!! The patient seems to have been forgotten from what I have visualized!!!! It breaks my heart!!!

    • I still have my cap. We had to wear them with our white uniforms. Mine was always sliding down because my hair was too fine to hold it., no matter how many bobby pins we put in it. I liked it when you could tell who was who on a hospital floor. Now you have to know the code it the scrub colored to figure out who anyone us.

    • I am an old school nurse and identify with all that has been said. I graduated from a BSN program in 1977. However, I worked in the county hospital for 2 years while in school to get more experience. I am so so on the cap. I was very proud to get it and the accompanying stripes, but ours was created by a “designer” and was essentially a triangle. My hair was too fine and no matter how many bobby pins I used, the silly thing kept falling off and into my sterile field. I do find it different and a little sad how rare the current nurses touch or interact with the patient. I have been a patient several times in the last few years and can count on one hand the number of times a nurse listened to my heart and lungs. Much less for bowel sounds.

  51. Well, I am a 1975 graduate of a Diploma School of Nursing from a Catholic hospital. Talk about strict… I can still see and hear the nuns. Some were kind ,others not so much. To my great surprise during one of my senior days on the ward a new clinical teacher approached me who had a bachelors degree and asked if she could follow me and observe an insertion of a Foley catheter! She never had the opportunity in her 4 years at an accredited university. We worked the night shift in the last 3 months with a minimum wage as reimbursement. Our graduation was in our local Catholic church which made it all the more serious and solemn. Yes it is a calling. I tried hard not to be a nurse trying all kinds of jobs but finally acquiesced and said, “OK , I’ll be a nurse!” Today, December 7th is my 42nd graduation anniversary. I remember waiting the long 6 weeks for my grades and license after taking the board exams for 3 days. What a relief is was to know I made it. I think I am starting a new phase now in my career… once a nurse always a nurse.

    • I too was 1975 graduate of Diploma School of Nursing from a Catholic hospital! Very strict but learned alot. Most of M.D. preferred Diploma Nurses. One M.D. said of BS degree nurses “She can tell you what makes up urine but doesn’t know which window to throw it out of” Loved being a nurse and will always consider myself a nurse!!

  52. Jean Giannone. I graduated 1992 from a diploma program and I was an older student, age 39. I believe my schooling was at the end of the “old school”. I did have a brief experience spiking glass IV bottles, flush IVs when hanging a piggy back and using those short metal rods with a loop on each end. Wore dress uniforms and white nurse shoes, stood inspection before each clinical. Pants were permitted in our last year. Received our caps and proudly wore them. Used the Kardex and had the three color pens. Learned so much in three years, I was ready for my first job as a GN. The LPNs on my floor were very happy to have a diploma grad who was able to do hands on. Went into home care and enjoyed having the independence and responsibility of being an RN. Now I work from home for an insurance company being a care manage/coach for medicare members. I do love being a nurse.

  53. Though my cap is in a clear plastic tote, it is yellowed with age. Getting it meant the world to me in nursing school many, many years ago. I remember spiking glass IV bottles & using metal injectors for IMs. We used to admit patients the night before surgery for preps & chlorhexidine baths before surgery. I’m now retired but I miss my calling everyday. I will always be a Nurse; it’s who I am. I am proud of the care I gave to my patients & their families. I am grateful to have been an “old school Nurse.”

    • Dear Old School Nurse,
      I would like to think the new or young or experienced nurses could still learn from us. We know things they don’t know. When we are in that bed and need a mustard plaster… or whatever we know that they don’t… whose fault is that?
      I don’t know how , but I’m not willing to help support our progeny. And you know they are.

  54. Oh my God… thank you all “old nurses” for that trip down memory lane!!! I laughed,cried & said “oooh yeh I remember that. I have been a nurse over 30 yrs & still have my cap & my Florence Nightingale candle from my Capping Ceremony.
    Thank you all so much

    • I wear my cap every year if I’m scheduled to work nurse’s day, also WOC nursing day. Always get so many positive comments from the patients, doctors and other nurses wishing they had a cap. You can buy them online! Susan CWOCN

  55. Read this article while in the Cardiac Care Unit of a major teaching hospital. 30 years as a Critical Care Nurse. Never did a patient of mine go to sleep in tears because of a life altering diagnosis , last night this fifty year old nurse went to sleep in tears for that exact reason. My nurse was in the Hall at her portable nurses station talking about her date. There is something to be said for old school.

    • Dear Heartrn,
      Here I am reading through all these replies and had to come back to yours. Even though I see that it has been almost 2 years since you wrote this, I hope that you have moved in a positive direction from your life altering diagnosis in the Cardiac Care Unit. I was so sorry to hear the disappointing story of your nurse that evening and hope that there were others that filled the void. Sending positive vibes from this “retired” RN (you don’t really retire, you are the “sandwich generation” caring for elderly relatives and friends ’cause “you’re the nurse!”)

    • I am a 3 year diploma school graduate (1974). I had to assist with the care of a “of a pt. with a brain tumor” early in my training. Little did we students know the tumor was a golf ball sized bulge out of the frontal portion of his skull. He was blind and there were at least 5 students giving him a bath. No one was talking to him. My instructor was at the head of the bed suctioning his oral secretions while having a discussion with someone on the other side of the curtain. She was not even looking at the pt.
      I was at the end of the bed and could see that the pt. was not breathing. I grabbed one of the basins and left the room , crying. I was reprimanded during post care conference. Not for leaving the room but for “showing emotion”.
      I vowed at that time that I would never allow someone in my care to die alone if at all possible. I treated those in my care with dignity and compassion while alive and in death. I am so grateful for the title R.N..

  56. Graduate of diploma school 1974. Graduated Friday and started work the following Monday as a GN
    Worked in peds with newborns to 3 year olds. Team leading. 16 children on a team. 1 aid and an LPN
    Passed all meds, did percussion treatments,passed trays, transcribed orders, gathered all charts for rounds. No pumps for IVs. Had to closely monitor drips, rates as low as 5 cc per hour and certainly couldn’t let too much fluid infuse by mistake since patients were children. Parents didn’t always stay with children. Babies had to be fed, and older children helped with food. Didn’t wear gloves routinely unless in isolation. Window and floor air conditioning. Learned a lot about time management. Very little chance for meals or rest. Loved every minute. Have always felt I am a great nurse thanks to education and experience. But also feel nurses develop a sixth sense about their patients and need to anticipate what is going on. Still work 1 day a week in a clinic. I know nursing will always be a part of me and my identity. I think that we old school nurses think outside the box much better and are able to find alternative solutions to situations. Good luck to all the new nurses. Wish you could experience one day of the old school nurses

  57. Oh I love these comments!! And YES, Nursing is a CALLING! Anyone who is in it for “the money” will not last long!! Please, go work at WAWA!
    p.s. I still struggle over calculating !V drips by hand! It was not my forte’ in nursing school, but I am now a Neurosurgical Nurse Practitioner and I have worked in hospitals all my life. I LOVE CARING FOR MY PATIENTS!

  58. Loved this! Remember wearing dresses with hose. Starting Iv’s without gloves? Not being afraid to get dirty? Having to bounce a coin off our sheets! And enemas! Oh, and metal bedpans! Lol. Once had a tweaking trauma pt hit me with one! Oh, and recovering post op patients in the ICU at night

  59. Thank you so much for this story and the comments below. Priceless! I laughed and I cried because I’ve been there, too. I graduated in 1982. I’ve done the nurse’s cap and remember bumping it on everything tearing out a few strands of hair each time. Lol. The support hose and the nurse mates shoes, too. I started out working med/surg which was that plus overflow from every other floor in the hospital when or if they were full. There were no detox or rehab facilities back then so we got Etoh abusers, DTs, ODs ,etc. I remember leather restraints. I remember everyone coming to attention when the nurse supervisor visited the floor. All of a sudden you felt the need to go and make a round on your patients. Lol. Usually there was a little cubby with one chair for the docs to go and record on the Dictaphone so there were times we had to get up and let them sit. I admit I wasn’t crazy about it. Otherwise tho,the patient care we gave..I wouldn’t change that experience for the world. I don’t know what nursing will end up being like in the future. But I recently started working in an assisted living facility that does not use the computer for anything much and I missed not having to do paper MARs. They still use them. So, the future won’t be all bad, I think. We adapt. We’re good at it. As long as we never forget who and what comes first and that is the patient/resident. Best of luck to you all.

  60. Answert call bells. Seems today that new nurses today do not want to answer call bells especially in LTC facilities.

  61. I started as a CNA in 1971 and graduated as an RN in 1974. Currently I am a licensed nursing home administrator . But, I always tell my patients that “I am a nurse first and an administrator second”. I still answer call bells, put patients on bedpans and give meds when the staff is busy. Over the years, I have been disappointed with what I call “clip board nurses”- students who think that when they graduate, they will automatically become a manager and not have to ever get their hands dirty. I try to mentor the students by involving them in every treatment and procedure we are doing on the unit- but unfortunately, more times than I like-the students would rather sit and read the chart then to get in there are absorb the experience. Remember:
    1. Clysis
    2. Mercurochrome and Maalox for wounds (and don’t forget that heat lamp nice and close to the wound!!!!!)
    3. Rectal tubes to relieve gas after surgery
    4. Warm tea and ginger ale to relieve gas pains
    Scraping the inside of and apple skin and giving it to babies when they have diarrhea (the brown pureed stuff was pure pectin!) simple solution without drugs
    5. My first job was on a 30 bed med/surg. We would draw up the syringes with the pain meds, label with tape and line your lab coat pockets with them- NEVER gave the wrong medication-checked over and over.
    and Lastly, how were we able to give meds, do treatments, transcribe orders, document and still find time to sit and hold someone’s hand who was scared. We did, because we cared for the whole person! not just a task.

    • Yea it is amazing with all the modern technologies that med errors and needle sticks have increased dramatically…maybe that’s a result of too many distractions, i.e. Cell phones, text messaging etc…

    • Oh, I remember doing clysis on peds in the 60’s. Always felt like I was doing more harm than good. I remember when nursing homes had cloth diapers and no gloves. You had to rinse them off in the hopper before they could be sent to the laundry. I worked ICU before the AIDS epidemic and we had no non sterile gloves. That was early 1980’s. I remember a patient who asked me why I wasn’t wearing gloves to enter his room. I remember telling him that as long as we weren’t sharing body fluids, there was no need. He cried because no one was touching him out of fear. I loved critical care and then home health because on the one on one with the patient I see some nurses today with that same interest and caring and others that scare me.

      • I remember doing clysis on a newborn. Over the scapula bone. It was scary. I graduated in 1977 from a Diploma program. I have loved being a nurse. Still working after 40 years. Hoping to go at least 7 more. When I started wearing gloves was when a patient I was prepping for surgery said, “the only thing I ever got from my husband was Herpes”…that was in 1983. The turning point for gloves for me.


    • I agree-more stories. I am the third generation nurse in my family-my grandmother, aunt and myself. I graduated in 1978 and I went from NICU (my favorite-I was part of the “new wave” of intubating neonates under a kg. and black/white stimulation for sensory stimulation) to current school nurse with a few stops along the way. My grandmother kept her license current until she had a stroke at 94. She was AMAZING. I found some of the needles she used to use-they were cleaned, sharpened and reused. I still have great respect for physicians and think wearing gloves every time you touch a person is nuts!!!

    • Hazel Coson, I love you. Thanks for your service. I forgot about the iron lung and wagansteins. Isn’t it amazing what they are doing for CF today. Enzymes and vests. Do we still have Circ electric beds?

  63. Graduated in ’76; worked at VA for 32 years (bedside and administrative) and during that time also did registry on occasion. The ‘newbies’ r scary but a few of them allowed me to mentor them..what a relief! I suggested to a few of them that maybe nursing isn’t for them cuz it isn’t a JOB! It’s from the heart!! Still working FT for a small ortho hospital with plans to retire December 2018..will definitely miss Nursing however have told my friends that they will be the only nurses taking care of me if ever I am hospitalized!!!

  64. What about giving an iron injection z track or buttoning up 15 small hole buttons on your starched uniform. In nursing school I was sent to the Director of Nursing for dirty shoelaces! Major offense!! On duty we never had lunch or breaks and we did our patients respiratory treatments, range of motion, wound care, ostomy care, IV’s, transported our patients in their beds back and forth to surgery and x ray , passed and removed meal trays, kept track of our patients I and Os assisted Drs on rounds and watched for flagged charts for new orders to be transcribed and answered call lights for all patients not just the ones we were assigned. We gave a full report at the end of our shift that all the nurses attended. We knew our patients because we did it all….. and we loved the work, our patients, families and the blood sweat and tears that went with our “calling”

    • Sounds like my experiences. I graduated in 1976. I worked as a nurses aide before that. Then became a LPN and worked ortho then med surg. We did everything for our patients.One thing I love to teach young nursing students is how to “time manage”. Organize your patients, your plan, your time. Recently I heard some new RN’s talking about how they were overwhelmed. They each had 4 med surg patients. So their idea to fix this heavy workload was to transfer to ER. I spoke up. Words fell on deaf ears. Nurses need to learn the basics of nursing before being allowed into a high acuity area where the other staff assume you know. I am against new grads in high acuity.When I graduated we had to work the floor at least 2 years to be able to transfer to ICU, CCU, Burn Care or ER or OR.I have been a nurse a long time and seen a lot of changes. I get sad when I think about retiring. So I went back to school and became a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiaty. I agree with the statement above that nursing is a calling. It is. It comes from the heart and you can recieve an education in nursing school but to truly be a nurse you must “feel it”. I want to jump to the subject of burn out and the nursing shortage. I believe some girls become nurses because they are told they have to. Some think being a nurse is a cool job. Some just aren’t sure so they give it a try. Schools today do not prepare students like they did 20 years ago. I was asked to sign off on successful veinipuncture when the student never sucessfully cannulated the vein. I was told by her instructor that as long as she “tried” she should be signed off. I was shocked and did not sign. I gave her multiple attemps. She never got it. Oh my gosh I could discuss this for hours but I need to return to seeing patients. Later Old schools.

      • A calling for sure and certain. I know for certain you are an exemplary nurse. Sounds very much like my experiences. Now the girls think
        They are going to make a fortune- good luck on that one!!!

    • What memories. I did all that, too. Nursing has changed so much. I DO miss nursing as we were taught and practiced all those years. I even still keep my nursing cap in a plastic hat box. I wear it EVERY year for the entire Nurse’s Week. I have stopped by the store on my way home from work or gone out to eat and still keep it on until I get home. It is so nice to see the respect that so many still have for our profession. I have been given discounts and had people stop to talk with me and shake my hand, tell me how much we (nurses) are respected and appreciated. It is GREAT. I have taught clinical and I teach the way I was taught. I tell my students…”Nursing really is easy. The hardest part is studying and passing your exams. The easiest part is clinical. If you treat your patient like she (I teach OB, NICU and Post Partum) is your daughter, your sister, your Mother or even yourself…how would you want to be treated. It is easy. It is ALL common sense. Put yourself in your patient’s place. What would make you feel better if you were lying in that bed? I have been a nurse for 31 years and I plan to retire in the next three years. It is bitter sweet. I look forward to retiring while I am still healthy and feel great enough to enjoy retirement. At the same time, I LOVE being a nurse and have NEVER burned out on it. I love it like I did when I began 31 years ago.

    • So true. We developed a “sixth sense” because we knew them!! This reminds me of why I became a nurse. It is NOT a job is it a calling!

  65. I am truly old school and proud . Please and thank you without having to be prompted. I loved my cap and I was proud of it. I have been an RN for 40 years. Still working full time. I love my career, I love being a nurse. I may be be computer challenged and I may slip and say Albino instead of suffers from Albinism. But I can still insert a catheter , give a bed bath, and cry when you need me too hold your hand and get you you through a tough time. I am a nurse and I never regret the day I got my pin and Solid Black Stripe in the stiff perfectly white nurses cap.

  66. Also a ’76 Grad & on the Johnson & Johnson mosaic picture of nurses. Old School nurses might not have their caps anymore, but we also don’t have tats or purple hair. We do have class as a result of our professional training, and as a result, status and we look the part. We don’t need training in “customer service” or “service recovery”, because we treated our doctors with respect and we put our patient’s needs first. More time was spent caring for the patient (even though in my early years of team nursing, we RNs were responsible for a ward, i.e. 30 patients) rather than taking care of the computer. Health care regulations were focused on supporting the helping professions instead of regulating our every move as standards were lowered. Doctors and Real Nurses were trusted to practice our profession like professionals. And yes! I DO believe being a Real Nurse is a calling. Although I love some of the new folks entering the profession; some think it is a job (they leave – they always have) and those who find a career . . . Mmmmm Maybe the calling is just a little harder to heat in today’s noise

    • worded perfectly, in yesterday’s world good care meant giving the best care you could to your patient, you and the doctor were a joint team to give the pt the best, in today’s world, it is what is on the computer system to look good to the government so the hospital will get full reimbursement for the patient’s care and expenses. What a change in focus, from competent pt care to computer documentation to “prove” you gave care to the patient, because otherwise the “government” may not believe you gave safe and competent care to the patient.

  67. Graduated in ’76 and wore a hat about one year. Also wore white oxfords and support hose for about one year before I realized they were killing me. I bought Earth shoes and white socks to wear with my white polyester pant suits, so much better. I still do hospital corners and face the pillow opening away even at home. Who remembers smoking at the nurses station and getting ashtrays for patients and for the Drs?
    The “children” I work with are awesome nurses and I am proud of them every day.

  68. So nice to hear all of the memories. Doing direct patient care since 1965(Corpman). RN in 82, ADN. I have been so proud to have been a Nurse, who happens to be male. I remember Captain Stuart Harold, USAF in 1965, an RN who I remember to this day as a motivator for me to be a Nurse. Nursing has supported me and my family, given us many advantages both personally and financially so that we may progress as a family. I will retire in 2 years at age 72, reluctantly, because I know I will miss it terribly. It will have been a wonderful ride.

  69. I graduated from a diploma school in 1971, and I still work full time in a hospital. One thing I remember is that there was nothing disposable on the trays we took in the rooms for different procedures (foley insertions, enemas, etc.). Everything was metal and glass, so it could be re-sterilized. Bad enough the few times I dropped the tray after it had been used – but I dropped one I hadn’t used yet that had the 1000cc soap suds enema solution in the pitcher! I also remember dissolving Demerol tablets in sterile water to draw up in a syringe!

    • I noticed that the cost of health care when up with the use of disposable products. Some are absolutely necessary but some are a waste of money When I worked a small ER in the late 60’s, we also ran central supply on evening and night shifts. I was terrified of the autoclaves.

  70. I’m a 1988 diploma grad and proud of it! I no longer work at the bedside, knee can’t take 12-16 hour shifts anymore, but patient care is my first love! I loved my white nurse mate shoes, polished to perfection! Hair above collar, clean clipped nails no polish!I’m sad to see nurses don’t even touch the patient on initial assessment…..sad what would they do if the machines failed

  71. I’ve been an RN since 1976, but worked as an aide while still in h igh school back in 1970. I still work full time– now as an administrator, but I’m a nurse first. still take patients to the bathroom, give injections when my nurses are busy and I still cry while holding the hand of a dying patient. Now, my staff comes to me when they see an order such as for clycis and have never heard of it yet along use it. I tell them old nurse remedies and they crack up laughing. Maybe you remember some: we used Mecurochrome and Mayonnaise to heal wounds (don’t forget the heat lamp!) what were we thinking? applying sugar to a
    prolapsed rectum or uterus to help it constrick before pushing it back in. HHH enema. High, Hot and Hell of a lot. If you worked at a catholic hospital- you could not wear pants and the dress had to be below the knees. Oh, the good old days. Looking forward to retirement next year!!!

      • Giving IV fluids subcutaneously because there wasn’t IV catheters small enough for the infants. Fluids were absorbed eventually. They still sometimes do this with small animals.

        • I have done it with 3 of my cats, all elderly, before they died. it was an end of life treatment for them for hydration and to help their kidneys.

  72. As a nurse who has often been the patient I have to admit when I have a nurse who has on scrubs she obviously tied in knots before wearing them, dirty looking gym shoes, or a scrub shirt that is pink and green cartoon characters with a scrub jacket that is Santa and Rudolph, I feel a bit unsure of her or his skill set and judgement. I know I am jumping to judge but as a patient you don’t get much face to face time with your nurse so first impressions do set the tone.

  73. Call me” old school”. I Graduated in 1970. I still work 24 hours a week in a very busy ICU. I have live on the cutting edge of Cardiology and wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I too remember hair off the collar, no jewelry,being on time and spending more time doing a bed bath. I also remember no phone calls at work unless you were on your break. Now everyone has a cell in their pocket and some interrupt report and say oh!! I have to take this call. ???? WHAT. Yes I agree we have come a long way but there are times I think we threw the baby out with the bath water. The rigid rules we lived with in the past are part of what made us the great nurses we are today. One more thing – Doctors now refuse to let me give them my seat, and sometimes I politely tell them “My job is just as important as their job. We just function in a different

    • I agree with everything you said. Today too much time battling computers and memorizing the catch phase of the Hospital corporation and using it while we smile and do the public relation gig and maybe a little nursing. But I have to say I have Never offered my chair to a doctor unless I was leaving anyway. lol

  74. I was an CNA first then graduated from LPN 1973, white hose, hair off collar, cap. Got my AAS in Nursing 1981, still in white hose, cap and hair off the collar. Both of my caps are gone but none of the memories!! Baths, back rubs, bed pans. IV’s with drip counts and tape to the new mini infusers for ambulatory patients. Have done most of it all from mopping floors to home health care and now sit behind a computer all day taking symptom calls. From strict uniform policies to now working in my PJ’s if I want. We’ve come a long way and have a long way to go still!!

  75. I was also a diploma nurse! We had excellent teachers and so much hands on nursing experience! When I started my 1st job in 1971, my head nurse told me I was her 1st pick to hire after about 4-5 other interviews. She was looking for a diploma nurse, because we already had so much clinical experience. I was promoted to assistant head nurse on the evening shift, after 3 years.
    After 9 years, I was asked to join the IV Therapy Dept. I was with them for 31 years! Back then we mixed most of the chemotherapy we gave IV push. I loved that job, (lots of times running to answer a Code Blue call). All the IV nurses had to go to the Codes, because we never knew who was free at the time of the call. I retired after 40 years, and became parttime babysitter for our 2 granddaughters! I wouldn’t change a thing! ♡♡

  76. I am a 1981 diploma graduate and I wouldn’t trade my education for the world. Back then, we learned how to be nurses and understood how and why things were done the way they were. The newer nurses I see today don’t have near the understanding of nursing the way we did, and there are so many things they don’t know. Clinicals are mostly observation or simulator lab and I would rather have an “old school” nurse care for me any day!! I was never big on caps and NEVER wore one after graduation, but I still have mine in plastic. I don’t think new nurses even have a cap. I hope the “new school” nurses grasp what an honor and a privilege it is to be a nurse.

  77. I graduated from college in 1978. I got rid of my nursing cap as soon as possible. I always wore my hair twisted up in a bun hidden under the cap. So many of those things apply to me, especially the soap and water baths. I still do that, its not a bath unless you get the patient wet and keep them covered with a bath blanket. I never got the drip rate on an IV but we used a dial-a-flow for everything. One thing I’ve noticed that designates me old school is I still aspirate the syringe when giving injections. I’ve asked new students and they tell me that this isn’t taught in nursing school anymore. As for giving up a chair for a doctor, probably not so much. They had their dictation areas and we had our charting areas. All charts were kept in big 3 ring binders. It was a huge transition from white uniforms to colorful scrubs. I love the colorful scrubs. I tell the nursing students I work with that if you don’t love it with all your heart don’t be a nurse.

  78. I got my BSN in 83, Masters in 87 and I consider myself old school because I care more about my patient than the computer which we are now supposed to nurse and not the patient. I keep my hair away from my collar, actually wear scrubs without any collar. I wear any color athletic shoes as long as they are comfortable and I can walk fast in them. I consider my docs my friends and co-workers with us and we function as a team for the patients. YES, I do cringe when I see nurses coming in to work in the morning with hair hanging down their backs and in their eyes. I want to tell them, please put all that hair in a pony tail at least, they look like they had just gotten out of bed.

  79. Old school and proud of it.
    Yes focusing on and speaking directly to the individual needs of each and every one of my patients. I allow each patient to think they are the only patient on the planet. (Even when I am swamped, which is MOST OF THE TIME!) A touch on the hand or a cool cloth across the forehead can be some of the best medicine! No need to be rushing around the room and complaining about only having a minute.

  80. New nurses don’t care about their patients the way old sch nurses did or do! Patients can really tell the difference! Really sad. What happened?

  81. Hello all ! its with great pleasure reading all these responses to being an old school nurse. I started my nursing career in 1981 and I am still going, I love being an old school nurse . My! My! i can relate to all the above like yesterday !!! In addition we had to give sitz_ bath for some skin condition,all nails must be cut short and nail polish was a no! no! , no eating or chewing gum on duty …Wow!!! its very different out here now !

  82. I agree with Sue.Most of the time spent in patient rooms are for giving meds checking IVs etc.We are so intent on documenting and entering every last bit of data that you do not realize the view for the patient is either your back or the top of the head.How can you do any observation or assessment? I am an old school nurse. You learn a lot from observation and develop an intuition as to what is happening. It is disturbing to find most doctor offices do not hire R.N.s but med techs who just are intent on getting vital signs on equipment. You can learn a lot of information by listening and taking a B/P by stethoscope and feeling a persons pulse which they are not able to do.There are some aspects of old school nursing I miss but I do not blame those who are nursing now. You
    spend a lot of time making sure everything is filled in on your computer check list because in this litigious world we are afraid.

  83. I graduated 1975. There are times I still wear my cap. As a hospice nurse now, when I wear my ‘whites’ my geriatric folk listen to me. They know what I am saying should be adhered to. So easy to give medications when everyone else is “wearing” what they were trying to give him/her.

    Permanent stains on my white uniform from an exploded banana bag.

    Patient Kardex’s written in pencil. Never mind continuity of care – when a treatment or symptom was completed it was erased because they were all written in pencil. Kardex’s used for ‘report’ one shift to the next.

    Chest tubes connected to glass bottles sitting on the floor.

    Long rubber rectal tubes remained in place for long periods to relieve gas pressure after any type of GI surgery

    Porcelain or metal bed pans

    Glass bottles with own glass for drinking water

    Hand cranked beds (unfortunately they are still around)

  84. As an “old school nurse”, by your definition, I am surprised that you do not seem to realize that there is another world outside a hospital. I graduated in1965, got my BSN in 70 and my Masters in 82. I stopped wearing a cap two weeks after my first job, when it hit a client when I bent over him. I have been out of a uniform since 1971, in the community, outpatient, research, inpatient. Gee, I thought the purpose of backrub had been to increase circulation, comfort, relaxation, and COMMUNICATION. I continue to mentor students and other nurses. There are some nurses who are ‘OLD SCHOOL’-my definition is they have not kept up with times, do not realize that the patient is the biggest part of the treatment team, and cannot adapt to change. They dictate rather than collaborate.

    • True, some “old school” & some “New-school” recent grads (in the past ten years) are resistant to change or keeping up with current standards of care/evidence based practice. There is a chair for both in the clinical education dept of the organization!

  85. Where I can get a pair of those white leather shoes these days? They were the best. Remember KY jelly to stick the nursing stripe(s) on the hat after washing, starching, and drying it? I liked the pens with all three ink colors in the barrel?

  86. Old school nurses prefer narrative charting that tells the whole story of the patient, not charting by exception which is a lawyers dream. Old school nurses know the importance of giving real bed bath with soap and water, can allow thorough assessment and develops repore with patients. Amazing how many times a skin cancer or breast or testicular cancer can be detected. Good back rub after you have warmed the lotion in hot water helped patient relax and sleep better. Gave patient your undivided attention for 5-10 minutes while doing this. So sad none of this happens anymore. RNs have become medicine pushers and computer geeks instead of patient care. So sad…

    • I graduated from a diploma school in 1960. I also have a a bachelor’s. There must be some way to take the best of both and make the best nursing program ever. Here are a few memories:
      Do you remember when the number of medicines was small enough that most of the regular meds were kept on the unit to be dispensed by the nurse? Today the number of medicines is beyond counting and it’s illegal for the nurse to dispense any drug at all unless he/she is a practitioner following a protocol. Remember drawing up injections and just having them sit on your tray without a needle cover. Or testing the needle on a 2 X 2 to see if a barb was present? That was before disposable syringes and needles.
      Do you remember ever adding an ampoule of caffeine to a glass of orange juice and drinking it to stay awake? How did you like being “in charge” on two wings (70 patients) and trying to keep up with all of the patient requests? Especially on a surgical floor, where there were numerous requests for pain meds. Usually you would have an aide to help on the short wing and an LPN to help on the long one.
      Do you remember when there wasn’t any ICU or CCU and those patients were dispersed among the regular patient units? One critical patient could keep you so busy that you couldn’t do a very good job of caring for the rest and you had to be able to count on those helping you.
      Did you ever take care of patients with polio who were in Drinker or Emerson respirators or rocking beds? And apply hot packs each shift. Polio is a very painful disease.
      Have you ever taken care of babies with whooping cough that you had to refeed after they vomited from coughing? Have you ever taken care of children with measles encephalitis or Reyes syndrome? Vaccines are so important for childhood diseases. There were so many complications and we had an infectious disease unit. It seemed I got sent there frequently.
      I always made rounds first thing and introduced myself and asked if they needed anything. Amazingly this really helped cut down on requests all through the shift. At my school, we were in charge of a wing begining the 4th quarter of our 1st year in school. Impossible as it sounds, we were able to do it and we learned so very, very much. A lot of people who got their RN by obtaining a BSN described the diploma nurse as a technical nurse in my day. Yes, we learned hands on nursing and how to do procedures, but we also did case studies with individual patients and followed them through their illness or problem. We did a lot more than just “technical”.
      My final position was pediatric nurse practitioner in hematology/oncology for 22 years. Everything I learned in my diploma school helped me as much as my later education.

  87. Thanks for the blast from the past!! I graduated in ’81 and can relate to everything in the article and comments. I had forgotten about the different colored ink for different shifts and always took pride in my freshly polished Nurse Mates. My hair was ALWAYS off my collar and I never forgot my school pin! When I wore a dress, white pantyhose were on my legs. LOL. I wore my cap for a long time and always enjoyed seeing the variety of styles worn by different schools. Ahhh…..the good old days! ?

  88. What a walk down memory lane!! I graduated in ’81 and relate to everything mentioned! Polishing our shoes, hair off collar, different ink for different shifts, white pantyhose with dresses, the list goes on. I wore my cap for a long time and always enjoyed seeing the variety of caps from different schools. Ah nostalgia…?

    • Oh Cindy, today they have plush dictation rooms with coffee and other goodies. They do not need your chair. Now for us older nurses, they should give up their chair for us. And yes, I have said that I needed the chair please and dictate in the dictation areas so I can do my work and charting and answer the phones. No I am not rude, but we need our meager space and need room to do our work too.

  89. Having a roll of silk tape in your pocket with bandage scissors. Wearing a cotton slip under your (dress) uniform. I graduated from a three year school in 1982. I loved my cap and wore it up until the late 90’s. It was always in the clear tote bag. I do have my nightingale lamp in my curio cabinet. i always wore lace up shoes and yes, I still make hospital corners on my bed!!! I even put my pillow cases on without touching the pillow and the pillow faces away from the door!!! Taping the glass IV bottles to time them and counting drops…micro and mini!!! Those were the good ol’ days. Standing up to give the doctor your seat. Charting long hand and using three colored pens…blue for days, green for evengins, and red for nights. Miss those days

  90. Always thought I was rather “old school” but the cap…seriously the cap!…mine is not anywhere to be found. It disappeared the minute it could. It was a little box thing that looked like I had had Chinese food the night before and decided the box made a lovely hat. Have you ever put a Chinese take out box on your head, secured it with pointy hair pins, and then proceeded to ram your head into every object you could see or not see, driving the pins into your brain, I think mine poked my pituitary gland at one point! If you have done that, then …..well you are weird….and you know what my head felt like for several years!

  91. I love this story and being a male in nursing since 1992 I fit about 7 of them. Another one to add to the list we prefer antique equipment to new technology and we OLD SCHOOL nurses aren’t afraid to tell put a doctor in his place.


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