Nursing in the Operating Room: 1889-1970
School of Nursing students and graduates have assisted with surgeries since the School was founded in 1889. Much about the operating room (OR) has changed over time. Early surgeries at the University of Maryland Hospital were performed in rooms with windows open to the outside and operating table covers that were reused. Anesthesia was delivered to patients through a cloth, and hospital staff wore cotton scrubs. Cleanliness and antiseptic techniques were stressed, but little was known about bacteria and germs in the early part of the 20th century. Nurses spent long hours cleaning and sterilizing instruments and other surgical items for reuse.
Over time, patients received better care as more was learned about the human body. Between the late 19th century and the latter half of the 20th century, the way a nurse prepared for and assisted with surgery changed greatly. However, the core job of an OR nurse stayed the same--prepare and care for patients before and after surgery and assist the doctor competently during surgery.