Everyone knows that nurses are the unsung heroes of the medical profession. On top of performing their daily duties, which sometimes includes taking life-saving measures for their patients, they also serve as the emotional rocks for families who are watching their loved ones endure a painful hospitalization.

Having said that, nurses’ workdays haven’t always looked the same as they do today. In fact, back in the late 1800s, being part of the profession meant that you had to adhere to some pretty strange rules—and perform some pretty strange tasks, too!

Oh, and did we mention that each and every nurse was responsible for 50 PATIENTS? We know our medical system is far from perfect these days, but we’re glad to know that if we get admitted to a hospital, our nurse will only be overseeing an average of 6 to 7!

Back in 1887, Cleveland Lutheran Hospital published a list of rules for all prospective nurses. Here are 9 of the most bizarre ones…

  1. Daily sweep and mop floors of your ward, dust the patient’s furniture and window sills

    Yep, you read that right—nurses were actually responsible for the overall cleanliness of every one of her patient’s rooms. The thought of all of that moping and sweeping is, honestly, enough to make us want to take a nap. We’re guessing a lot of coffee was consumed on their breaks!

  2. Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing a scuttle of coal for the day’s business

    So, what’s a “scuttle of coal,” you may ask? Oh, you know, just a MASSIVE iron bucket filled to the brim with coal. With all of that ash everywhere, we’re surprised the nurses were able to keep their uniforms so white!

  3. Light is important to observe the patient’s condition. Therefore, each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys, and trim wicks. Wash the windows once a week

    Oh, look, MORE intensive chores for the medical professionals to do while they were also simultaneously saving their patients from the tuberculosis epidemic…

  4. The nurse’s notes are important in aiding the physician’s work. Make your pens carefully; you may whittle nibs to your individual taste

    Well, at least Cleveland Lutheran Hospital allowed their nurses to “whittle nibs” to their liking. What a revolutionary concept!

  5. Each nurse on day duty will report every day at 7AM and leave at 8PM except on Sabbath on which day you will be off from 12PM to 2PM

    Not far off from today’s nurses’ hours, but something tells us all of these ladies couldn’t wait until that weekly Sabbath rolled around…

  6. Graduate nurses in good standing with the director of nurses will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if you go regularly to church

    Yep, these educated, professional women of the 1800s could only take time off if it was either for God or a man. Times sure have changed!

  7. Each nurse should lay aside from each pay day a goodly sum of her earning for her benefits during her declining years so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month you should set aside $15

    Ladies and gentlemen—this is what a retirement plan in 1887 looked like. Again, we have come quite a long way.

  8. Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop, or frequents dance halls will give the director of nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intentions and integrity

    We kind of get why the director of nurses wanted them to stay away from liquor and smoking—but beauty shops and dance halls?! How did these gals let loose?

  9. The nurse who performs her labors and serves her patients and doctors faithfully and without fault for a period of five years will be given an increase by the hospital administration of five cents per day

    Fun fact: That’s only a few bucks in today’s cash!

Talk about odd! We’d love to hear your thoughts on these vintage nurse rules. Were you surprised by any of them? Do you work as a nurse and are made to follow any of these guidelines?