How The Nursing Industry Has Changed Since the 1970s

NursingJuly 11, 2016

Healthcare has undergone significant changes since the 1970s – it’s only natural that nursing changes would have mirrored the industry landscape.’s Nursing News recently focused on those changes through the eyes of 40-year veterans of the nursing profession.


As expected, some of the biggest changes have been in the technology nurses use, starting with EHRs – electronic health records. Computerized patient records that are available with the click of a mouse have become virtually universal in recent years. Patients and medications now are bar-coded to ensure accuracy, and providers today typically send their orders electronically.


But there have been many “physical” changes, too. Nursing care is much more collaborative, with nurses discussing treatment options with physicians and a host of other clinicians…not just following orders. “Nurses are much more professional and accountable,” 43-year nursing veteran Kathleen Lattavo told “They are seen as an integral part of the healthcare team.”


Jill Arzouman, president of the Academy of Medical-surgical Nurses agrees, adding that what sticks out most is the length of time patients are hospitalized for surgeries. Several-day hospital stays – both before and after surgery – often have been replaced by same-day surgery today. “I never thought that would happen,” Arzouman said.


What Hasn’t Changed in the Nursing Industry

One thing that hasn’t changed: nurses need to be on their toes for several hours at a time. In the early 70s, nurses typically worked five 8-hour shifts a week. That became four 10-hour shifts and now has evolved into three 12-hour shifts. “Young nurses love working three days and having four off,” Arzouman noted, “but it’s exhausting for older nurses.”


Despite the challenges, most nurses will tell you they’d pick the very same career if they were to do it all again. It’s a rewarding profession that enables them to work with a variety of people and multiple conditions. It’s a job that requires professionals to work with their brain and their heart all at the same time.


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