One of the biggest questions I get asked from students staring nursing school is, “What do I really need for clinicals in nursing school?” Sure, there are lots of fun stuff that you can load up on, but what do you REALLY need? Well, I have been teaching clinicals a few years and here’s my must have top 10 list for nursing school supplies and for your career beyond!
Top 10 nursing school supplies
The #1 tool you will need and use throughout nursing school and beyond. I have some pretty strong opinions on what I think is the best stethoscope and if you can afford the Littmann Cardiology IV – then go for it! This fantastic work horse stethoscope will not disappoint and you will be hearing things you never would before. Plus, Littmann has the best warranty on the market – 7 years out of the box – you can read more about it here. The holidays are coming and this would be an awesome gift for any student or nurse. I personally have had my Littmann Cardiology III (the predecessor – which you can still get, but a bit pricer) since 1998 and it is still going strong. I have sent it in a few times for warranty upkeep, which extends the warranty, so its like having a new stethoscope every year.
2. Pen light
There is nothing worse than a student with out their pen light….call it a pet peeve, but you just need to have one. Not just for neuro exams, but sometimes you need to shed some light in those little crevices to get a better look. They are so cheap and most come with replaceable batteries. I especially like the ones with the pupil sizes on the side, especially for students and new nurses. But if you are prone to loose things or want to go in with your clinical group – they come in disposable packs of 6 pretty cheap.
There is nothing worse than not having scissors readily available in your pocket and you don’t want to be the annoying nurse that is always borrowing someones. So pick up a cheap pair, put them on a badge reel and slide them in your side pocket – I hook the badge reel to my pocket so they don’t slide out when I am in action!
4. Clip board
To carry around all your papers and reference sheets, you are going to need a clip board. Most come with some great references right on them and even some storage so your patients confidential information can stay just that – confidential. I am pretty partial to the NRSNG clipboard as it has some really nice features – the content is printed on the board, not a sticker, and is actually helpful in school and as you start your career. They also have a pediatric version for those of you brave enough to take care of our little folks. (On side note, NRSNG has some awesome free resources, so go check them out here.)
My 2nd favorite clip board is the White Coat Clip Board – mostly because it does fold and can fit in your pocket. This is a really nice feature if you don’t really have anywhere to safely leave your stuff. I was a bit worried it would cause tears in cargo or lab coat pockets, but a few of my students had them throughout there nursing school time and no damages to their uniforms. They also come in some fun colors!
This is another favorite products from our friends over at NRSNG – I am telling you, they are doing some great things for nursing and nursing education! I could go on and on about these cards… they are the perfect size, laminated and on a ring so you can take sections out you don’t need for the semester. They are color coded for quick reference and even have a card you can write common numbers or your own notes. They have pretty much any reference you could possibly think of or need for the day. But best of all they fit right in your pocket for quick reference! Love this! I actually kept them in my nursey bag that I kept with me throughout the day – sometimes you just need a refresher! You will not be disappointed with the ScrubCheats cards – I promise!
Please, if you listen to no other advice, listen up now. Please get some compression socks for your poor legs and feet. I was a bit late to the whole compression socks game, and boy do I regret it. You will be on your feet for long hours because there is so much to see and do, who has time to sit! I personally love Nabee socks. They are created by a nurse and I love supporting one of our own. I wear them for entire 12+ hours shifts and never have to pull them up. And best of all, they come in super fun colors and patterns! They definitely are the best nurse socks!
7. Clinical bag
Well, you have to put all this stuff somewhere, right? And you really aren’t a nurse if you don’t have some kind of nursey bag. But whatever you decide to use, make it your dedicated clinical / hospital bag. I personally use one of the organizer bags from Thirty One, but have heard really great things about the Nurse Mate Nursing bag also. Whatever you decide, just make sure it always has everything you need so when you leave before the roosters in the morning for clinicals, you can just grab and go!
There is a ton to learn in nursing, no doubt. And there will be lots of information thrown at you to which you want a quick reference – such as labs. Well, that is where badge buddy cards come in handy. They are small cards that go behind your badge with quick reference information such as lab values or insulin times. Stuff you are learning, but maybe not totally committed to memory yet – or like me, don’t always trust their memory. Badge buddy cards come in super handy when the nurse or physician starts dumping lab values on you, but you can’t remember the norms. Never fear, badge buddy to the rescue! (You can also get them bundled with a some other reference material and report sheets in a nursing student kit for a nice price!)
Ok, don’t hate me for this one….but I am sure you will have to do some care planning. Its the heartbeat of nursing and the best way to get you thinking like a nurse. We do this everyday for our patients, but maybe not write it out formally. But how do you think we learned? Now it’s your turn to learn. I personally like this little book – Nurses’ Pocket Guide – it is short, sweet and to the point. It is nice and light and can be kept in your bag for reference (not really “pocket sized”), but no more lugging around a huge book!
Personally, I don’t wear a watch anymore – with all the hand washing, they bands get gross, so its just not worth it – there are clocks everywhere. But, your nursing program is likely to make you get one….its just one of those things. So find a cheap, cute, no fabric band one and just go with it! Oh, and it probably has to be white, just cause.
So there you have it – all the things I think you would need for clinicals! But more importantly, make sure you show up ready to go, engaged and willing to learn. This is your time to soak it all in and practice everything you can! Ask those questions and be curious.
Good luck & don’t hesitate if I can be of any help!
Take care, be safe and wash your hands!
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