I now have less than 6 months of nursing school left, and I figured it was long past time that I compiled a list of the things that I’ve found to be essential while on clinical. with every clinical rotation I’ve completed, I’ve taken a look at what supplies I ended up using the most and what I didn’t use at all. 6 clinical rotations in, these are what I never go without.
one | you never know what the temperature will be like on the floor, but I’ve found that I prefer having a base layer underneath my scrub top. not only does it give me a little warmth, I also like having something soft against my skin instead of the stiff cotton of our student scrub top. these tops are made of jersey-like material, which makes them soft and stretchy, but they also hold their shape and fit close to the body so that I don’t add unnecessary bulk up top. they come in a dozen different colors, hold up well in the wash, and have gotten a ton of rave reviews.
two | aside from your stethoscope, good shoes are probably the most important thing to have on clinical. I started out with a pair of regular leather sneakers, but then upgraded to these as I found the sneakers didn’t have enough support for an entire 8 or 12-hr clinical day. they do need a little breaking in, and it took me a minute to get used to the fact that my heel was supposed to go up and down with each step, but now they’ve molded to my feet. I can’t imagine spending hours on my feet in anything else. some of my friends don’t like them because they do add a little height (about 1.5″), but to me, that’s a plus! :)
three | ok, ok…an apple watch is not an essential, but a watch is, specifically one with a second hand. I put the apple watch in the collage because it’s what I personally use when I’m on the floor. I pick a face that has a second hand and make sure that I use a sport band that’s made of easy-to-clean silicone. it’s also a nice way to keep connected to the outside world on break or when I get a moment (in the bathroom…ha!) without having to take out my phone.
four | compression socks are amazing. that is all. I’ve tried several kinds but I’ve found these have a good amount of compression, stay up, & are pretty (equally important). I never thought I’d buy $25 socks, but they’re worth it in my book.
five | I’ve quickly learned that it’s never a bad idea to have a snack in your scrub pocket in the event that you have a crazy busy day and don’t make it to lunch until 2 p.m. (if ever). I tend to get hypoglycemic, so I always make sure to have one of these bars on hand. they’re delicious & fit perfectly in my scrub pocket.
six | a pen light is super important when doing physical & mental assessments. I found this one in the hardware/automotive section of target of all places, but I like it way better than any “medical” version I’ve found. it has a clip, shines brightly, and it has a click mechanism that isn’t easily engaged, saving your batteries for when you’re actually going to use it.
seven | most patient rooms I’ve worked in have these dry erase boards that are used to communicate some basic important information – the patient’s name, goals for the day, nurse, nurse assistant, schedule for pain meds, etc. the markers that come with the boards are prone to go missing, so I’ve found it best to have my own so I can update as necessary without having to hunt a marker down.
eight | it’s always good to have a pair of scissors on you. whether it’s to cut some tape or bandages or to open a stubborn pill foil, they’re a life saver. plus, you’ll look really prepared when the nurse/doctor fumbles around for one and you can lend them yours. ;)
nine | I’ve come to be really well-versed in a lot of the medications I see given to patients, but of course, every once in a while, there’s a drug that I’m not familiar with. this pocket drug book is perfect for those situations when I don’t have time to log in and look up the drug information on the computer.
ten | I carry two pens with me when I’m on shift – one with black ink (for official documentation) and one with colorful ink, like purple (for making easy-to-spot notes on my copy of the patient’s chart at report). click pens are best because no one has the time to recap or look for caps, plus the little clip lets me anchor it to my top or pants easily. I’m partial to these from muji. I also like to keep a cheap pen on hand (usually given by the hospital/clinic) in case I lose my pen or, more likely, for when a doctor or friend asks to borrow a pen. this way, I don’t feel bad if that pen never gets returned.
eleven | I must wash/disinfect my hands at least 50 times per shift, and it shows. my hands get very dry from all that scrubbing & alcohol, so I make sure to regularly use some hand cream. this one from l’occitane in the original shea butter is my go-to. it’s rich without feeling greasy, it absorbs and gets in really deep, and I find the scent to be soothing and subtle. I keep a travel-sized tube permanently in my nursing bag.
twelve | nursing involves a lot of paperwork. this folding clipboard has been great at keeping all of them together. I love that it folds so that I can put papers away in my pocket but then can take it out and unfold it to a regular clipboard for when I have to do some documentation. it is expensive for what it is, but the folding feature is so convenient.
thirteen | this one’s obvious: a stethoscope. I have 2, one from Littmann and one from MDF (pictured above). there’s some debate as to which stethoscope brand is the best. I think if you invest in a good quality stethoscope (any brand), I think the better stethoscope is the one being used by the clinician with the better ears. clinically, I’ve been happy with both of my stethoscopes, and I think they’ve both been more than sufficient for nursing school. I’ve been using the MDF one more often lately because it’s slightly longer than the Littmann one, making it easier for me to reach farther parts of the body without bending quite as much. I also like the all black aesthetic of it (my Littmann one has green-blue tubing). for graduation, I am asking my parents for an engraved Littmann cardiology IV stethoscope that I’ll use in my professional career.
fourteen | lastly, every nurse needs an id badge…why not make it fun? I have this one that I’m excited to wear in my OB rotation, but for other floors, this is my go-to. I do love my coffee, which is absolutely essential for all nursing activities. ;)
fellow (student) nurses, what are your go-tos? any big ones I missed? let me know in the comments!