Differences Then and Now.

Frances Stearns, a 1926 St. Paul's Hospital School of Nursing graduate, offers insight into some early nursing methods. Her experiences are quite different from modern nursing methods. The use of technology and pharmaceuticals has exploded since her time and has changed the entire medical world, including the way nurses do their jobs. For example, in the 1920s hospitals were cleaned in a very different way than they are today:

"If a patient had had a staph infection or infection of some other nature, when the patient left the ward was sealed. Cotton batting was put all around windows, doors and keyhole. Before sealing the bottom of the door, a Formaldehyde solution had to be put in a large basin and placed in the middle of the ward. All utensils, sheets and blankets, towels, etc., were left in the ward. Then the bottom of the door was sealed and left for forty-eight hours. Lysol and Creolin Carbolic were disinfectants. We had to learn to use our heads, hands and feet and observe as we went along" (Stearns, 1).

Stearns recounts various treatments that were used in her day:

There were no Sulpha or Antibiotics or fancy equipment in those days. They were the days of Sinapisms (mustard plasters), Camphorated oil, Murphy (Saline solution) drips, Interstitials, Dakin's solution (a strong disinfectant) for compresses and irrigations, hot turpentine stupes (flannel for fomentations) for abdominal distention from Peritonitis, and soap suds enemas, 1/60 grain Strychnine subcutaneously, Camphor in oil, Luminal and Phenobarbital used mostly as a sleeping pill or to relieve tension, Digitalis, Aloin, Strychnine, Belladonna, and Cascara pills, liquid Cascara, III grain tablets of Cascara, Castor oil, Magnesium Sulphate or Phenolphthalein for bowels, molasses and milk enemas for flatulence. They were tricky to make; if it curdled you had to make another one. There were glass and metal catheters. Some hospitals did not allow nurses to use glass catheters, only doctors could use them, but we were taught how to use them (Stearns, 2).

Stearns' memoirs are fascinating and they give the modern world a glimpse at what it was like to practise nursing in Saskatchewan in the early years.