|An overhead IV rack in it's safest position-on the ground|
The ceiling was equipped with tracks that ran around the periphery of the bed in a semi-circle or as a single diagonal running from the foot to the head. A looped hook with ball bearing wheels roamed the confines of the track. The IV rack had a pigtail like structure at it's upper most point that was carefully threaded through the hook and you were in the business of IV bottles in the sky.
These clever contraptions utilized a release button that dropped the rack down to working level that just happened to be the height of the average bedside nurse. It was fun and games for all until a spontaneous release that dropped the loaded rack in a nondeviating path on the top of a vulnerable cranium below. Talk about Excedrin headache #47, that really smarts. I think overhead IV racks may have been the impetus for semi-private rooms. A nurse was concussed by an overhead IV rack and rather than open another hospital room, an additional bed was wheeled in for the traumatized practitioner.
Another problem with overhead racks was a phenomenon known as "uplifted bottle drift." My recollection of high school physics is a bit fuzzy, but one of the facts of inertia included the notion that once a body is set in motion, it stays in motion. A sudden lateral adjustment of the heavy glass bottles position in the ceiling track sometimes meant the contrivance flew past it's intended stopping point resulting in a most unpleasant crash/bang with light fixtures or anything else in it's path. Twin overhead racks over a single bed were an accident waiting to happen. If both loaded racks collided, a shattered glass shower was inevitable as the bottles self destructed. If you think cleaning up glass IV bottles from the floor is bad, you haven't seen anything, as an occupied bed full of injurious glass shards glass was far worse. A two for one deal of the supremely noxious variety as both nurse and patient were potential laceration victims.
Gravity was a dependable vector to deliver IV fluids, but there were lots of variables when the only controlling mechanism was a roller clamp. This necessitated endless fiddling and adjusting as vascular resistance varied or the fluid level in the bottle dropped. See-sawing IV drip rates were always explained by that ubiquitous "P" word. Positional covered lots of possibilities from the position of the IV catheter to the movement of an extremity.
A revolutionary development appeared in the mid 1970s. Fancy little IVAC machines with glowing electric eyes plastered to the drip chamber began appearing. This clever little apparatus accurately controlled pre-set drip rates. Older nurses thought they would never catch on due to their expense, but to me, they were magic in a box. IVACs and the even more sophisticated pumps that followed required an IV pole for support. IV poles meant the death of overhead IV racks. We did keep a couple of the flying IV racks on the unit because a few of the patients enjoyed posting family photos or inspirational slogans on the overhead racks. It was a genuine boon to patient morale to look up and see a reassuring image and some of the hazards of these racks was mitigated by the absence of heavy bottles.
If you are interested in acquiring an artefact of nursing/hospital history, there are loads of these fickle firmament flying fixtures for sale on EBAY. Just don't forget to duck!