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October 16, 2007

What If We Never Had Plastic?

Bekaserdans72x722 Beka - Last night at work I was wondering what our work would be like if plastic had never been invented. It seems like the healthcare system consumed massive amounts of plastic in the forms of intravenous tubing, isolation forks and knives, plastic pillows that crunch, clear chest tubes, and so much more.

The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the Great International Exhibition in London in 1862. This material, called Parkesine, was an organic material derived from cellulose that, when heated, could be molded, and then it retained its shape when cooled. Celluloid is derived from cellulose and alcoholized camphor. John Wesley Hyatt invented celluloid as a substitute for the ivory in billiard balls in 1868. He first tried using collodion, a natural substance, after spilling a bottle of it and discovering that the material dried into a tough and flexible film. The new celluloid could be molded with heat and pressure into a durable shape.

Besides billiard balls, celluloid became famous as the first flexible photographic film used for still photography and motion pictures. John Wesley Hyatt created celluloid in a strip format for movie film. By 1900, movie film was an exploding market for celluloid. It is from that moment and the use of formaldehyde that plastic became routine in the American market -- no longer were glass milk bottles found outside your doorstep. And it was only in 1953 that plastic wrap was introduced to the world!

So what did nurses use to run intravenous fluids before the invention of plastic IV tubing? Maybe that’s a ridiculous question, but changing 10 lines last night made me think about this and the value of plastic. Flexible plastic!! Older nurses -- If you remember, tell us!

PS -  Fall is here! Bekablog_photo_2

October 16, 2007 in Beka | Permalink


Ahhhh yes the good old days....when nothing was disposable. IV containers were glass, tubing latex and needles metal, bedpans were metal, anything that went on a bed was cotton or linen, GI suction was "Wangenstien" with a glass collection bottle, and pleurovacs were glass bottles in a line. You would have to clean everything, check the needles for barbs or dullness, and send them to central processing, then wait for them to return. Everything cleaned, processed and reused. We have come a long way!

Posted by: oldnurse | Oct 31, 2007 3:47:58 PM

Yes, we used glass bottles for almost everything.Including IG suction. Well remember those days and nights when we were required to invert the suction bottles at regular intervals, not forgetting the section we need to wash and send them for reprocessing! ;)

Posted by: Helen Goh | Oct 29, 2007 11:00:08 AM

For all the good things that plastic has done for us in the medical field, let us not forget that these same plastics are not biodegradable and have been seen floating in vast bodies of water around the world. They have been part of pollutants found in our beautiful beaches and have for the most part clogged our sewers and drainage system in the city. Critical care nurses are like plastics. We can shape and mold them to be the best in their field of practice but if their hearts and minds are not a perfect fit for the job, they can be the very same nurses that can destroy the image of nursing to the public.

Posted by: Careless Whisper | Oct 27, 2007 6:30:33 PM

When I was a student nurse, we use glass bottled IV fluid with metal cage on the drip stand. All the nurses had to carry a small screw driver to remove the metal cover at the opening of the drip bottle.

Posted by: TayKN | Oct 27, 2007 5:36:05 AM

latex rubber tubing with a murphy's chamber was used for iv administration. the iv fluid came in glass bottles, there were no iv canulae so metal needles were used for iv lines and they used to come out ever so often. a big metal screw clamp was used on the latex tubing to regulate the drip rate. tubing would be washed and autoclaved before using on another patient. almost every patient would get a rigor after iv fluids. central lines were unknown. giving iv fluids to a child was a nightmare. scalp vein sets were not available and had to made by breaking a metal needle and inserting it in a plastic tube. it was a hellish situation. these days with plastic canulae and plastic bottles, plastic iv sets, plastic central lines, a great deal of labour has been taken away.
vivek gharpure

Posted by: vivek gharpure | Oct 24, 2007 11:51:31 PM

Chest tubes were glass with rubber tubing -if not set up correctly 4 litres of fluid would be deposited in pts. chest cavity- very nightmare inducing. Each inch measured 400 cc. IV's were glass. Syringes were glass and everything else was either rubber or metal.

Posted by: Kate Rickert | Oct 24, 2007 4:39:03 PM

I trained in nursing school from 1959-1962 in Germany. We did use rubber tubing attached to glass bottles, administered either IV or subcutaneus. Only MD's or Interns inserted the reusable needles,and adjusted the drip rate. Nothing was disposible. All tubing was cleaned, then autoclaved. Other rubber tubings were GI tubes,rectal tubes, irrigation tubes. The nurses did a lot of equipment cleaning and autoclaving. We've come a long way.

Posted by: Ingrid Fetkoeter | Oct 24, 2007 3:51:59 PM

I think they used small rubber hose with a needle on the end, like a huber needle and they put the needle in the fatty part of your body - thighs, stomach- and the fluid infiltrated into the body.

Posted by: Lucy Ridgeway | Oct 24, 2007 12:18:24 PM

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