Nursing Then and Now

by ih-mis admin

I have been a nurse since 1977.  I was 19 years old and terrified.  I was sure I had not learned anywhere near enough to be allowed to actually take care of sick people.  But, luckily as it turns out, I was thrown into the deep end of the pool by starting my career in a very small rural hospital which was often staffed with just an RN, and LPN and a nurse’s aide.  We took care of all the patients in the hospital including mothers in labor, newborn babies, heart patients, surgery patients and the emergency room.  It’s amazing what you can do if you have to.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago (at least not to me) but the differences in health care at that time and now are staggering.  Now we have private or semi-private rooms, then we had wards and one entire wing of up to 19 patients with only 2 bathrooms.  Now all hospital rooms are equipped with electric beds, piped in oxygen and suction, monitors, etc.  Then we had beds that were 3 feet high and had cranks at the foot to raise and lower the head and foot by hand, oxygen tanks chained to the walls by the beds and 2 portable TVs for the whole building.  I was watching an old episode of M*A*S*H recently and saw the autoclave (sterilizer) that they used and it was the same one we had.  We also had a board in the entrance of the hospital listing all the patient names and their rooms so anyone could stop by and visit.  No privacy laws then!

There were also limited career choices for nurses back then.  For the most part you chose either a hospital or nursing home.  Now there are careers as traveling nurses, home health care, school nurses, hospice, urgent care, research, the list goes on.  There are also many more specialty areas within nursing, just as there are for doctors. Orthopedics, pediatrics, gerontology, neonatal, surgical, family practice and pediatrics just to name a few. I have worked in many different areas of health care over my career and I have found my happy place in Orthopedics, including orthopedic urgent care.  I love the pace, seeing different things all the time and the satisfaction of seeing people able to, for the most part, improve and return to their lives.  I am doubly blessed to be working for the best healthcare facility I have ever been a part of. Missoula Bone & Joint doctors, administration and staff are a team who truly care about people, both patients and employees.  I am so glad at this stage of my career to be in a place that I feel that I make a difference in people’s lives. 

You can’t really ask for more than that!

By Jeanne Miller, LPN Missoula Bone & Joint