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10 Nursing School Supplies Every Nursing Student Needs

A new academic year is always a good time to take inventory. For the classroom experience of nursing school, you may already have the things that make you successful, like a laptop, textbooks, drug guides, and NCLEX review programs. 

But as you begin and progress through clinical experiences, you’ll need to think about getting yourself the supplies every nurse needs. Choosing the right supplies — for both your success and your patients’ care — can take some time and financial investment and a little trial and error.

To begin exploring your options, here’s our list of nursing school supplies to buy throughout the year or even add to your holiday wishlist.

Must-Have Nursing School Supplies: #1. Scrubs

Scrubs are the uniform of nursing and essential nursing school supplies. Their look might be partly for status and ease of recognizability, but it’s mostly because they’re comfortable and incredibly functional. 

You likely know firsthand that nursing work is very physical. You need the ability to perform a wide range of movement, and the flexibility and comfort of scrubs make them the most practical outfit for the job. They’re also fairly easy to clean.

As a student, you may get your clinical scrubs from your nursing program. However, as you advance in your schooling and begin working as a nurse, you’ll need your own scrubs to round out your wardrobe. 

Search for a style and brand that fits you well while keeping your look professional. You don’t want scrubs that are too tight, too long or short or made of fabric that doesn’t agree with your skin. 

If you have the option of trying out scrubs before buying them, try squatting and stretching through a full range of motion in them to see if you’re comfortable doing so.

The best scrubs also have several convenient pockets. It’s inconvenient and inefficient to move back and forth between rooms to gather supplies that can easily be carried in a pocket, like pens or lights. Some of the best picks for occupying your pocket space are found on this list.  

#2. Comfortable Shoes

Like the right style of scrubs, having comfortable shoes is essential for nurses. For students and beginning nurses, time on the floor is often long, and many of us aren’t used to being on our feet for eight or 12 hours at a time. 

It may seem counterintuitive to invest in shoes that will get scuffed and potentially exposed to a range of bodily fluids, but a good pair of shoes for male and female nurses will alleviate some of the physical stress of prolonged standing and help keep you active as you tackle your to-do list. For nurses, comfortable, professional shoes are a must-have.

You’ll want shoes that have grip on their outsoles with insoles that provide support and comfort. Many of the most comfortable nursing shoes have a clog-like appearance, but there are athletic sneakers that can serve as good nursing shoes, too. 

If you’re concerned about how being on your feet will affect you, or if you have had injuries in the past, you may want to consult a podiatrist for recommendations. Also, keep in mind that even the best shoes will wear down over time, and you’ll need to regularly replace them to keep your feet healthy and happy.

#3. Compression Socks

Along with leg and back discomfort, hours of standing can also affect blood flow. Blood follows gravity, so it naturally pools in our extremities. 

This creates the discomfort of swollen feet and affects overall blood pressure. In the long-term, resting blood can lead to edema and even blood clots. 

Compression socks counteract this by putting pressure on the lower legs and feet (and the veins within), forcing blood back up from the feet toward the heart. 

You’ve likely had experience putting these types of socks on patients, but nurses can benefit from them, too. You can find standard non-medical compression socks in pharmacies, but you’ll also be able to find a variety of colored and patterned compression socks in specialty shops and through major retailers.

#4. Badge Clip or Lanyard

It’s a standard to have visible identification in any clinical setting, so you need a reliable way to present and protect your badge. It may be tempting to buy a budget clip, but in the long run, you’ll want something sturdy so you don’t risk losing your badge. 

Some clips are retractable, allowing you to use your badge while keeping it securely attached. It’s also common to find badge holders with symbols to give it a touch of personality. You can find many of these specialty clips online.

However, keep in mind that different facilities will have different standards (like a preference for clips or lanyards or no symbols), so you’ll need to check with your program and participating clinical site.

#5. Good, Retractable Pens

Even in our technology-heavy age, pens are still one of a nurse’s best friends, and it’s not uncommon for many nurses to have a favorite pen. We do a lot of note-taking and record-keeping while treating patients and reviewing information, and that often means we use a lot of pens, making these essential nursing school supplies.

You’ve likely heard of many nurses using “clicky” pens, and that’s for good reason. Pens with caps waste time, and there’s a risk of them making a mess of the scrubs that hold them.

Shopping for good pens can start while you’re still in the classroom. Find something that’s comfortable to hold and write with and make a nice, bold mark on paper. Stick to standard pen colors in case you need to make notes on legal documents, like paper charts. 

#6. Stethoscope and Case

Many nurses will likely start out with an economical stethoscope, but as you progress toward work as a registered nurse, you’ll want a quality tool. 

It’s easy to get focused on color and shine, but other factors — like sound quality and durability — are more important when shopping for this iconic piece of nursing equipment. 

The best stethoscopes sit comfortably around your neck without weighing you down and have both slightly more sophisticated tubing and comfortable, secure earpieces. The chest piece should be stainless steel, which provides the best sound transmission along with the easiest disinfection.

Keep your stethoscope in good working shape by storing it properly. It’s easy to toss your stethoscope into a bag at the end of your shift, but stowing it away in a hard, lightweight travel case will preserve its function and keep it away from unnecessary contaminants.

#7. Nursing Bag

Nurses need to be prepared for almost anything, and having a good nursing bag means all the equipment you need to do so is easy to grab and find.

When you’re just starting out, a backpack might seem sufficient. But can your backpack allow you to quickly sort through sanitary items, over-the-counter medicines, IV flush syringes, monitors, and your own personal items? 

A good nursing bag has well-planned practical storage to keep all the materials you need secure and easy to find. Also, because your bag will be going back and forth between many places, you’ll want to consider one with a comfortable, reliable shoulder strap and sturdy, easy-to-clean material.

#8. Nursing Watch

Whether we’re noting the exact minute of when a patient takes a medication or we’re taking a manual pulse, many of us nurses complete our professional uniforms with a quality watch. 

A good nursing watch has numbers that are easy to read in different lighting and at different angles. For nurses who prefer an analog watch, having a noticeable second hand is critical. Digital watches should have this feature accessible with a minimal number of clicks.

Many nurses opt for using smartwatches. These devices have many features that can be beneficial for nurses, like easy access to reference apps. 

However, a smartwatch may not be the best choice for someone who feels tempted to check in on personal business. If using a smartwatch as a nursing watch, opt to use a “do not disturb” setting and app-blocking features during your shifts, so you can stay focused and professional.

#9. Nursing Clipboard

Most hospitals will give their nurses clipboards for carrying around important documents. However, there’s a benefit to buying your own nursing clipboard. 

Nursing clipboards are sturdy and many have information (like normal ranges for vitals and blood work or how to recognize common metabolic conditions) displayed for quick reference. They also have pockets and clips to keep patient information secure and out of plain sight but also easily accessible when you need it.

#10. Pen Light

A pen light is a small, portable light that can be focused on specific areas, instead of bathing a wide area like a larger flashlight. You’ve likely seen other nurses use these little tools or have started using one yourself. 

In nursing, we use pen lights to perform assessments and check for symptoms and reactions. We can also use a pen light for reviewing documents or searching for supplies. 

Not all pen lights are the same. They come in disposable and non-disposable models with LED or halogen lights. Many will have clips, so they can be secured into a scrub pocket to keep them accessible. 

How you’ll use your pen light will determine which option is best for you, and you should always make sure to have a back-up or battery replacement in your nursing bag or scrub pocket.

These are just some of the nursing school supplies that will ensure a successful experience when you begin your clinical experience with patients. Already a certified health care professional? Sign up for Clipboard Health to start picking up per diem shifts at local facilities.

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