View Full Version : "old" ICU

02-11-2010, 04:07 AM
Can somebody tell me what Intensive Care Units looked like in the '90s? A few major differences from today's? I suppose the technology must have advanced quite a lot in 15-20 years. Were there as many machines and monitors as now, only they looked "less sleek"? Or were there considerately less? Also, I suppose there was much less plastic than now...


02-11-2010, 06:29 AM
Small rooms with the wall facing the nurse's station made of shatterproof glass panels with a sliding door that could be sealed air-tight in case of isolation. A wrap around curtain on a track that could go all the way across those windows if a doctor needed them to, but other wise they stayed open.

Lots of blinking monitors. An oxygen line fed through the wall behind the patient's head. A suction line beside it, also mounted to the wall. IV stand hooked to the end of the bed, and the bed's on wheels so it can be taken to rooms for testing without having to move the patient.

Modular equipment varied by the condition of the patient (life support, etc.).

One bed per unit with one (small, plastic) chair for a visitor, no real room for more than one person sitting and one standing, but in the even of end of life scenarios, things could be moved around to fit say 5-6 people.

Most of the time the rooms were open, with the patients in view of the nurse's station at all times. Lights overhead that never go out all the way.

02-11-2010, 07:05 AM
This is going to vary completely on how long it's been since the unit was remodeled and what kind of budget the hospital had. For example, a county hospital is going to have older equipment than a private hospital in most cases.

Here's some generalities: Most units have glass doors, so the nurses can see the monitors and the patients when they are not in the room. There is a curtain that can be pulled across the door for privacy. Cardiac monitors (as well as monitors for temp, central line pressures, etc. in newer units) would be monitored at bedside and at a central monitoring station. Many of the more progressive units had vinyl couch/beds near the window, but the lower budget or older units had vinyl recliners that made out into beds. Whether or not family is allowed to stay is usually either determined by hospital policy or at the discretion of the charge nurse. The wall (or post depending on the unit) behind the bed would have usually two oxygen ports, two suction ports and in some cases heliox. The IV pumps used in the 90's are still floating around. In ICU they are almost always triple channel. The newer pumps with the add-ons weren't available yet. Ventilators looked much the same, with the exception that the more recent models are somewhat smaller (just as noisy though).

Plastic was already pretty standard in the 90's. There are few things that still come in glass bottles, but that is because they are incompatible with plastic. (Like nitroglycerin drips.) The only thing that I can think of that has been changed out almost universally is the use of latex, due to the number of people developing allergies to it. Oh, and paper charts. Many hospitals are still converting to bedside computers for charting.

Basically, everything was a lot like it is today. My best advice would be to go to an older hospital in your area and ask for a quick tour. They will probably oblige you and even answer questions if they have the time.

ETA: Was the 90's really that long ago? I feel old.

02-11-2010, 07:24 AM
Thanks! So basically, if it's a small county hospital, somebody that has not seen the ICU since the '90s wouldn't notice too much of a difference?

And no, the '90s is NOT a long time ago! --to me at least ;)
It's just that in my field the technology has changed drastically (we can now type tens of thousands of DNA strains!), that's why I was wondering what has happened to medical equipment in the ICU...


02-11-2010, 07:48 AM
Yeah, for a rural hospital things probably look very much the same. The equipment is so expensive that it usually isn't replaced unless it is broken, so no one cares if the pump is 20 years old, as long as it works.

I just remembered one major difference between the 90's and now. Scrubs. In the 90's a lot of nurses liked to wear those awful looking scrubs with the cuffed ankles, and Birkenstock's were the shoe of choice. White Birkenstock's. *shudders*

Good luck with your research.

02-11-2010, 04:02 PM
Thanks! So basically, if it's a small county hospital, somebody that has not seen the ICU since the '90s wouldn't notice too much of a difference?


No, not in most. In our small town, the small hospital (which my cousin who works in a large metro hospital calls "the hospital at Hooterville" - Green Acres reference), the ICU is as the 1990's version described above. Actually, to the best of my recollection, the ICU and the rest of the small facility were upgraded in the late 1980's and everything pretty much dates to then.

02-11-2010, 06:31 PM
I'm not sure about ICU's of the 90's but currently our ICU rooms have this huge piece of equipment hanging from the ceiling in order to suspend patients in the air to change their beds.

My Dad was in a regular ICU bed but his skin begain breaking down so they put him in a harness contraption hooked to the equipment on the ceiling and then replaced the normal bed with one that turned him every few minutes. I would imagine that those things are fairly new updates to ICU rooms, especially the bed.

Purple Tulip
02-11-2010, 06:34 PM
No crocs

02-11-2010, 06:52 PM
They call them crocs? I have my nurses wear "clogs" is that incorrect?
Thanks you all!

Purple Tulip
02-11-2010, 09:03 PM
Clogs are a type/style of shoe. Crocs are a brand of shoe. :D