In the 1960s, as the knowledge of cardiology expanded, so did the skills needed to care for these patients. During this time, with the inception of the CCU, nursing had to assume the skills needed for cardiac monitoring and defibrillation, breaking down the barriers between the scope of nursing and physicians. Having a nurse recognize a fatal arrhythmia and saving a patient’s life by defibrillation without the guidance of a physician was the first step in advancing and expanding the role of the CCU nurse. This was done the very first time at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
In 1963, Dr. Lawrence E. Meltzer and the chief of cardiology, Dr. J. Roderick Kitchell proposed a research plan for a new two bed cardiac unit at Presbyterian. It was a nurse-focused study investigating if 24-hour nurse monitoring and intervention could reduce mortality in patients with acute myocardial infarction. This research study was as much a nursing experiment to see if they could handle the increased responsibility and role change as it was about the mortality rate of the patients. The experiment was a huge success as the nurses role expanded beyond just caring for patients and would now include curing them as well. Earlier this month, Presby faculty and staff came together with honored guests to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this great “experiment” and how it became the platform for a continued expansion of the role of nursing.
Please see the photos below for a slideshow of the celebration and a collection of photo examples of CCU nursing, then and now.