Peg Kennedy has seen lots of changes in nursing during her 42 years at Fremont Health.
Kennedy retires this month as vice president and chief nursing executive at Fremont Health. Recently, she looked back and recounted some of the changes she’s seen in her profession.
Just a few include:
Nursing attire. Kennedy graduated from Nebraska Methodist Hospital School of Nursing with 111 students in her class. Every single one wore a white dress with white nylons, shoes and caps.
“We also looked exactly the same,” she said.
Each nursing school had its own unique cap. Nurses today don’t wear caps, but do get nursing pins. They come to work in scrubs.
“They (scrubs) are probably more practical than white uniforms and they have lots of unique pockets,” she said.
Testing for licensure. In 1975, Kennedy started at Fremont Health with a temporary license.
Just a few days before that, she’d taken her boards (exams) with paper and pencil for two days in a huge room — and very stern-looking women walking up and down the aisles making sure no test-takers’ eyes diverted from their own exam papers. She got her results and permanent license just before Labor Day weekend in 1975.
Today, nurses take their boards on computer and can’t work until they have passed them. No temporary licenses are issued.
Computers. When Kennedy started working as a nurse, most hospitals were not computerized. “Now, I’m not sure nurses are even taught how to do long-hand documentation. It’s all on an electronic medical record,” she said.
Technology. “I think about IV pumps,” Kennedy said. “I went from manually counting drips to make sure the patient was getting the correct rate of infusion to simple pumps that would count the drips for me — to now when IV pumps are pretty much stand-alone computers that nurses can program and that can feed their alarms into their pocket phones.”
Shifts. Kennedy worked eight-hour shifts. In the late 1980s and early 1990s that changed to 12-hour shifts. It came about because of nurses’ preference and work-life balance. “You can be full time, but only work three days a week instead of five,” she said.
Behavioral health. Throughout the years, Kennedy has seen the volume of behavioral health patients grow. “Two years ago with our facility plan and renovating and adding on to the hospital, being able to keep our medical-surgical patients on two units, gave us an open unit on fifth floor to start an in-patient behavioral health unit,” Kennedy said. “That’s just two years old now and we’ve been able to help hundreds of patients, not only from Fremont, but from Omaha, out-state Nebraska, Iowa. We get a lot of referrals from a lot of places, because there’s such a shortage of these services.
“And so after years of having to rely on Omaha and other area hospitals for behavioral health in-patient services, we’re now giving back and able to not only help our own population, our own market area, but also the larger region — and that’s probably one of my biggest changes and my biggest points of pride in my career.”