Some things never change.
In 1988, the days of patients with minor ailments and long hospital stays were ending. Patients were sicker, but their time spent in the hospital was much shorter. The country was in the middle of a deadly AIDS epidemic, and nurses worked unprotected from the dangers of bloodborne illnesses. RNs also were beginning to take on new roles such as researchers, midwives, anesthetists and primary care providers, requiring advanced education and training.
Today’s nurses have new roles and challenges. AIDS has become a manageable chronic illness like cancer or diabetes. Nurses are being recognized as ideal care coordinators to help patients take control of their health. Safety precautions for workers and patients have improved, although much more remains to be done. Hospitals still are major employers, but nurses are moving into the community — working in public health and medical offices and as advanced practitioners, and offering primary care in settings such as shopping centers and rural clinics. Nurse researchers are contributing to health policy changes and also are stepping into political and policymaking roles.
To mark our magazine’s 25th anniversary, we’ve asked various nursing experts to look back at some of the major issues we reported on in 1988 and still continue to cover. Their reflections — coupled with statistics from then and now — show how much in the profession has changed and how much has stayed the same. •
Cathryn Domrose is a staff writer. Send comments to editorHLMW@nurse.com or post comments below.