Essentials for Nursing Students

As you begin your course of clinicals, you will need to be prepared with basic nursing equipment. Click here
for quality medical supplies
Plan for this expense along with tuition, books and other fees. Check with your school for any specific requirements as to color and design before purchasing.
NOTE: Some schools require that you wear a specific uniform and shoes, and may require that you purchase your basic equipment from them or a specific vendor. Check before you purchase anything.


You will need a stethoscope. A 5-Way design should serve you well as a student. It has both the bell and diaphragm and can be interchanged for adults, children and infants. The
Littmann Class II SE is a great choice. Add an ID tag to keep it from wandering if you lay it down, or someone asks to borrow it.

Uniforms will most likely be dictated by your school so check with them before you make any purchase. The school may have a specific uniform, or just guidelines. The most comfortable and versatile is scrubs or pants and tops, but some schools may still require the women to wear dresses. You will need at least 2, preferably 3 or 4, depending on your access and time for doing laundry. Crisp clean uniforms are essential for sanitation reasons as well as professional appearance. Pockets are life savers, and the more the better. Wrinkle free and stain releasing fabrics are highly recommended.
Comfortable Nursing Shoes

Comfortable nursing shoes or clogs are essential! Again, check for any specific requirements from your school or hospitals. Lightweight, well-fitting and padded can't be emphasized enough. You're going to be on your feet and running for hours! If they need breaking in, be sure to do so before you start clinicals.
Be sure they fit well and are comfortable. Don't choose looks over comfort and fit!
Beware that many health care facilities and schools have banned or issued strong caution about the use of shoes such as Sketchers Shape-ups and Reebok Easy Tone due to risks of ankle injury.
A Watch

A watch with a second hand is absolutely essential, and of course you have to be able to read it easily. A calendar along with military time options are worth looking for, as well as a lighted dial. It has to be waterproof because you're going to be washing your hands and wrists often. You might even like to have a watch that pins onto your lab coat or scrubs. Check out for a huge selection. (See blog post review.)
A Gait Belt

You will also need a gait belt for transferring patients and assisting with safe ambulation.

Bandage Scissors

You will need a good pair of stainless steel bandage scissors in a 5 inch size. They should have some sort of identification attached to them so they get returned to you should someone borrow them. A pocket organizer designed for nurses will house them and keep them safe in one of your pockets.

A Four Color Pen

A four color pen will be handy, and if it comes on a rope to hang on your neck, it'll be perfect. Many institutions require multi color charting to differentiate such things as phone calls, narcotic administration, pain assessments etc. Some require blue ink and some black as the primary color ink, with red as the secondary. Being prepared makes you more confident. (Even if all of your charting is computerized, you will need a pen often!) Some pens designed to look like a syringe are popular with nurses.

More Must Have's

A hard copy of a medical dictionary such as Taber's will become your best friend as will the latest edition of drug books such as the Drug Handbook or PDR for Nurses Keep them in your backpack or locker at all times. (Donʼt forget them at home.) Replace them yearly! You should also have apps for a smart phone or tablet for these items.
A penlight for pupil (neuro) assessment should be kept in the pocket protector with your scissors. The disposable ones often have a handy pupil size chart on the side.
A few other items you may want to purchase along the way include a small retractable plastic tape measure, a nursing calculator clip board, or small pocket calculator.

Combo Kit

You might also want a sphygmomanometer. Or you might consider a Combo Kit which includes a stethoscope.

Choosing a Smart Phone

A Smart Phone (Android, iPhone etc.) with apps or an iPad or other tablet can be a very useful tool at the bedside or other location on the fly for looking up drugs or other health information. It can also be used to keep vital contact information for instructors, peers and your family members along with a calendar to keep you organized.
Time Management and organizationals skills are basic skills that nurses must have and you may not learn in nursing school. A Smart Phone or tablet can be very helpful in keeping you organized and on task.

Put Your Name on Everything!!

Everything should have your name on it. Doctors are notorious for borrowing an item and then walking off with it. When you are rushed or called to another patient, you can easily forget your equipment and find it gone when you return.

Reading Materials

Here are a few books that might make your education process a little easier and help you ease into your first year as a new nurse:

These and many more books for nurses are also available on Barnes&

©2009-present by Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN, all rights reserved. No portion of this document may be used in any format without written permission. Email Me.