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5 Things for Nurses May Be Thankful For

November 17th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Ah, the crunchy leaves on the side of the road, the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, the anticipation of a good meal – the end of November is a good time to remember all that we have to be thankful for.

While we’re aware of all the “regular stuff,” like a roof over our head, food to eat, and so on, how about having a look at what nurses may be giving thanks for this year.

1- Uniforms that don’t need ironing

Any nurse who has been running late and had to grab a nursing uniform or scrubs out of the dryer should send a thought of thanks to the person who invented “permapress” fabrics. Sure, we can still buy 100% cotton – and many nurses prefer them because of their comfort, but there’s something to be said about having a couple of no-iron uniforms hanging around.

Originally, permapress fabrics were treated with a substance that contained a high level of formaldehyde. In 1987, a new process was discovered that used significantly less formaldehyde and this became a popular treatment by clothing manufacturers.

Fast forward to 1998 and a new nano-technology was applied to fabric, removing the need to use the controversial formaldehyde. It’s nice to see how science is working on improving our daily life.

2- Microwaves

What did nurses do before microwaves? Before they could warm up their meals in a rush or heat up their cup of coffee yet once more?

Although the household microwave became available to the general public in the 1970s, they actually have been around since 1945 when the first microwave oven was tested out in a Boston, MA, restaurant. They began as industrial ovens but as manufacturing improved and prices dropped, microwave ovens became increasing popular in the mid-1980s.

Now, you’d be hard pressed to find a health care facility that doesn’t have microwaves for both staff and visitor use.

3- Coffee makers

Working nights? Where’s your coffee? Working days? You may just need your cup of joe to get that shift started. Thank goodness for the modern coffee maker and its ability to make a pot of coffee within minutes.

There have been ways to make coffee for centuries. From drip-type makers to vacuum-type brewers, people have always been trying to find a way to make a better cup of coffee.

The first coffee percolator was patented in the mid-1800s and while these could make good coffee, they weren’t the most convenient or easy to clean of appliances. Enter Mr. Coffee in 1972 – the first commercially available home coffee maker. Since the introduction of the Mr. Coffee coffee makers, appliance companies have been working hard to improve the product.

Whether you set your coffee maker on a timer so you have a fresh cup waiting for you when you wake up or you pour yourself a cup of coffee as soon as you get to work, that coffee maker may be a major part of your life.

4- Electric beds

If you are one of the nurses that can remember the crank beds – the ones with handles at the bottom of the bed that raised or lowered the head and foot of the bed, you likely also smacked your shins against those cranks at least once or twice. They left wicked bruises – if you were lucky. They left open cuts if you weren’t.

Getting patients comfortable in a crank bed could be difficult because you had to turn the crank until the patient was just right – and that could change just minutes later. Depending on how stiff the cranks were, this could also be a major feat as you fought with the crank to get it to do what you wanted it do.

Electric beds that could go up and down with the press of a button were major convenience for nursing staff. The beds were invented in 1945, but not readily available for many decades due to their expense. They couldn’t get rid of the crank beds fast enough!

5- Running water and central heat

Pity the poor nurse in 1887 whose duties included not only caring for her patients, but fetching pails of water, dumping chamber pots (mind you, we do have bedpans still!), and stoking the fire in the central stove.

As America modernized, running water became more available in the last quarter of the 1800s and the early 1900s. Before that, nurses had to depend on what they could bring into the hospital for their needs. Clean water was needed to bathe the patients and to provide care, so a constant supply was needed. Water was also needed to do washing and cleaning.

Coal stoves were the most commonly used heating systems of the early hospital days. The nurses were responsible for ensuring there was plenty of coal on hand and in the fire, keeping the patients warm.

Yes, nurses have a lot to be thankful for. While we admire what the nurses before us had to do with what they had and we’re grateful for the path they paved, there are likely very few of us who would willingly go back to those times.

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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