JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Nurse Needles: 1942

Nurse Needles: 1942

November 1942. "Nurses in training. Babies' Hospital, New York. A graduate nurse (right) watches student Susan Petty prepare a hypodermic for a patient. Strict adherence to doctors' orders is something every probationer must learn." Photo by Fritz Henle for the Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

The Candy Striper models her uniform

This photo is of a young lady, around 13 or so, who is modeling her new Candy Striper's uniform. Striped pinafore, red and white stripes which account for the "candy stripe" reference, over a plain white blouse. The traditional uniform of such young ladies, who frequently took on such volunteer work, usually weekends and some evenings during the school year, and during the weekdays in Summer during summer break.

They could work in several different areas, but went through short training periods to learn what they could and could not do, and how to safely go about their work. Many took on this part time unpaid volunteer work to get some direct exposure to hospital work, and to see how well suited they may be for future careers in nursing and other medical fields.

Definitely not a "Candy Striper"

Candy Stripers were never, ever involved in direct patient care in such a manner. Regardless of what kind of stripes they wore. In fact, this uniform is a nursing student uniform for a school training RNs. The pattern is even completely opposite of what Candy Stripers wore.

Candy Stripers' uniforms were a striped pinafore ~ either red or pink and white stripes ~ over a white blouse. Some earned a striped cap with a white cuff after having achieved a certain number of volunteer hours; others didnt have a cap, and earned pins for volunteer hour goals.

You'll see that this uniform is a plain white bib apron style pinafore over the striped dress underneath. Every nursing school designed and required their students to wear the school uniform, and each had their own required manner in which it would be worn. Some wore the apron over a striped dress ~ the stripe color could vary, but was usually blue of some shade; others green or lavender, and I have also seen small checks instead of stripes; others were a solid color. Some had long sleeves, others short. The color of hosiery and shoes could vary as well. Some probationers were required to wear black hose and leather nurse's shoes, until passing their basic courses, then they could switch to white hose and shoes. Others wore the black ones all the way through; others the white from beginning to end. You can see how much variability was involved!

Some schools even had different caps for students from what they would wear as graduate nurses. Some added a black stripe to the cap as Senior level students; others not until achieving their RN status by passing state board exams. Some schools didn't add any stripes at all, and the cap remained plain white.

Every school was different in this respect, but all of them required that probationers pass basic preliminary science and beginning nursing care courses successfully before being awarded their cap in a "Capping Ceremony" that was usually held with some degree of Pomp and Splendor. Some included the addition of the bib part of the apron to the uniform as well. The Students who did not succeed in passing those courses did not win their caps, or advance through the rest of the program. They went home. It took several months to get through the Probationer period ~ some schools took 3 months, others 6, or even 9. It depended on the school and how their program was structured.

In any case, a student nurse in full student uniform, and the coveted cap, was past the beginning portion of the program, and was advancing through more complicated nursing care courses. Pharmacology courses were usually required before, or at very least, in conjunction with, giving injections and "passing meds" of other kinds to patients. Thorough supervision was always provided by a Graduate level RN at all times. All nurses on patient care units were expected to help supervise student nurses on their wards, because the instructors couldn't be everywhere at the same time.

Nurses were also trained in the care of the equipment they used, in the days before specialized departments such as Central Supply, and disposable equipment and supplies.

When Central Supply departments were added to hospitals, most were initially run by RNs. Now, it's a completely separate profession, with its own training and certification, including continuing education requirements.

Processing hypodermic syringes and needle care was a big part of it, as well as reusable IV tubing and supplies. Needles had to be thoroughly cleaned and well honed (sharp points, no burrs) before being wrapped and run through the autoclave. And technique in giving injections was just as important as the condition of the needle. If the angle of insertion and the skill of insertion is wrong in conjunction with the angle of the point, then it's going to hurt no matter what.

It's a shame in many ways that the hospital schools of nursing have gone by the wayside. Their educational approach in several ways was superior in how nurses were taught hands-on patient care. They spent a lot of time teaching how to take care of and educate the patient, and much less time in how to fill out paperwork.

But the medical industry across the board has undergone so many changes ~ some for the better, of course. I'm not going to get started on that. I know many nurses are frustrated with the way they must devote so much time to the computer in getting their charting done.

I was in nursing school myself back in the 70s, when things were really making great strides and creating massive changes, and have paid a great deal of attention to the nursing profession most of my life. I spent 15 plus years working in the ORs until I became disabled from a combination of work injuries and issues I was born to have. My daughter has her BSN, and is working in the profession now. So, I feel like I can speak from experience and knowledge gained from a great deal of research, on both ends of the spectrum.

Needles really hurt back then

My mother told me that when she gave birth to me by caesarian section so long ago that the needles felt like she was being stabbed by a Parker ball point pen. Made me realize what mothers have to endure from the start.

Hospital Uniforms

All three of my sisters work in our hometown's hospital; one is an RN, one works in admitting and the other works in the admin office. About a month ago the hospital changed the dress policy and now only staff directly involved in patient care can wear scrubs, everyone else has to wear something else. The sister who worked in admitting was ticked off by this as she had to go out and purchase new clothes for work. I can understand the need for change though, my wife has had multiple hospitalizations in the past year and it is easier on everyone if patients/family can identify the patient care staff from houskeeping or maintenance.

For 'Candy Striper'

They look awfully close to what my mother used to wear so I'd say they trained at 'Columbia Presbyterian'.

Hope it was sharp

This was in the days before single use needles and syringes. After Ms. Petty has given the injection, the needle and syringe would go into the autoclave. The syringes were ready to go again after they were unwrapped but the needles generally needed a touchup on the arkansas stone. Not every orderly had good honing skills.

Candy Striper

The nursing trainee is wearing the Candy Striper uniform. While I do not know what school the nurses hat represents, from the 1920's to the 1970's Babies Hospital did major recruitment of nurses from Great Britain, Canada, and the British Empire. In the old days you saw many obscure nurses caps from many different countries.

A nurse is a nurse --

Back in the day, you could always tell a registered nurse from a practical nurse from a nurse's assistant by their uniforms, and the stripe pattern on their caps.

Today, all that is gone, and with everyone from doctors to dish washers (no offense meant) wearing multi-color "scrubs", who knows who is who?

Sweet Sue

I'm guessing that getting a shot from this lovely nurse somehow would not have been as painful as normally expected. Of course, it looks like only infants were involved in her job. Love the old school uniforms!

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.