Becoming a nurse is your dream career. You studied relentlessly, passed the NCLEX (whew, that was hard!), and landed your first nursing position. Before you rush out the door for your first day, you’re going to want to make sure you have the tools you need to get the job done right.
Every nursing tool has its purpose. Some you can do without, while others are essential for performing patient care duties that meet best practices. Nurses can pay up to $14,000 a year for supplies they need to practice their craft. Before you hyperventilate over that figure, keep in mind that some of the supplies you purchase – stethoscopes, thermometers, clipboards – last for years.
To help you sort through what’s essential and what’s a bonus, we’ve created a top 10 list of must-have nursing supplies. It includes:
- Compression socks
- Nurse watch
- Pocket hand sanitizer
- Nurse clipboard
- Drug reference guide
Expert advice from nurses like you
Nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals can all be caught wearing a stethoscope around their necks most days on the job. This is a non-negotiable tool for any nursing position. Stethoscopes are primarily used to assess a patient’s cardiac, intestinal, and respiratory health. Nurses can listen to a patient’s heart, lungs, and abdomen to determine if they are functioning normally.
There is hardly a shortage of stethoscopes on the market today. The price ranges between $20 to more than $1,000, depending on the features you choose. Some are more expensive than others, but this is not a tool you want to skimp on. When purchasing a stethoscope, consider the following factors:
- How frequently will you use it?
- How sensitive are the acoustics?
- Does it have a high-quality durable head and tubing?
- Does it have comfortable earpieces?
Make sure you also review any available warranties and return policies before investing in a stethoscope.
Nurses spend a lot of time on their feet. Sometimes they are standing in one position for hours. Other times, they may be rushing around like they are in a race. Whether it’s your first day on the job or your 1,001st day, choosing a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes is a must. Before you rush out and buy the first pair that feel good on your feet, check with your employer. Some have specific requirements about what brands and colors of shoe nurses can wear on the floor.
Some of the most popular brands of nursing shoes include Dansko, Dickies, and Nurse Mates. Qualities to look for in a good pair of nursing shoes include being lightweight and breathable. Make sure there is adequate support in the arches. You can expect to spend between $30 and $200 for footwear depending on the brand name and features. Scrimping on comfortable, supportive shoes can lead to foot and back pain, so choose wisely.
Not all scrubs are created equally. Like shoes, you have cheap versions and top-of-the-line models. When you’re working a 12- or 14-hour shift (or longer), you want breathable, comfortable scrubs that move with you. As with nursing shoes, you should check with your employer before buying scrubs to ensure compliance with their dress code.
Choose material that can withstand a good washing without shrinking or fading. Other tips on how to wash your scrubs for the best results include:
- Washing them separately from other clothes.
- Pretreating them for stains.
- Turning them inside-out to prevent pilling.
Scrubs vary in price depending on where you buy them. Some of the cheapest costs are between $6 and 10 per piece, while the most expensive can run at $45.
Standing on your feet for long periods can cause leg pain, vein inflammation, and other unpleasant conditions that affect your health. One of the best ways to counter the risks of prolonged standing is by wearing compression socks. You will appreciate the extra support by the end of your shift. Nurses who wear compression socks can reduce soreness, swelling, and protect against blood clots and varicose veins.
Compression socks are relatively inexpensive compared to other nursing supplies. You can snag yourself a quality pair for around $10.
Infrared thermometers are all the rage. They are highly accurate and allow nurses to keep a safe distance when checking temperatures. Nurses must take patient vitals regularly. Body temperature is one of the most important vital signs they must record. Checking a patient’s temperature reveals whether they have a fever, which can be a sign of infection.
You needn’t break the bank to buy yourself a decent infrared thermometer to add to your nursing toolkit. Basic models start at $20 and can go as high as $300 if you want one with all the bells and whistles.
Medical watches, also called nursing watches, are a must-have for recording vitals and keeping track of patient medications. It is important to choose a nursing watch with a second hand for accurate recording of pain assessments, lab charting, and pulse. Choosing a watch with a large second hand makes reading easier to do these tasks quickly and correctly.
Some brands are exclusively designed for nurses. They start as low as $18 and top out at around $50. For added convenience and durability, you may want to select a water-resistant watch. Silicone bands also are recommended for comfort and ease of sanitizing the watch at the end of your shift.
Pocket hand sanitizer
When used correctly, hand sanitizer kills up to 99% of microscopic bacteria and germs that make their way to your hands. Nurses touch a lot of gross things during their shifts and may not always have time to scrub their hands with soap and water. Carrying pocket hand sanitizer can be a lifesaver – literally. Prevent the spread of disease with a container small enough to carry in your scrubs.
Pocket hand sanitizer is one of the cheapest items in your nursing toolkit. You can buy a 2-ounce bottle for around $2.
A sturdy clipboard can be a nurse’s best asset. You can use them to organize patient charts and paperwork, keep track of reference materials, and other administrative tasks. Clipboards that come with a small storage compartment are ideal. You can store extra papers securely for use later without worrying about them becoming misplaced.
Depending on how fancy you get with your clipboard, you can expect to pay as little as $10 or as much as $50.
Every nurse’s bag should include a penlight. It is a handy diagnostic tool that can help you efficiently assess a patient’s condition. Just like temperature, pupil dilation can tell a nurse a lot about a patient. They can determine if the patient is conscious, suffering from a cognitive injury, or possibly impaired by alcohol or drugs. Based on what you see with your penlight, you can gather enough information to determine the next steps in treatment.
Penlights are super easy to store, making them convenient to carry around throughout the day. Disposable penlights can cost between $1 and $4 each. Reusable penlights aren’t much pricier, coming in at between $7 and $10 at most nursing supply stores.
Drug reference guide
Drugs come with a lot of side effects and contraindications. You can’t be expected to remember it all off the top of your head. You can buy full-size or pocket-size versions for easy reference. Ensuring your patient is not taking a new medication that interferes with an existing medication is crucial. Quality drug reference guides help you avoid the kinds of medication mistakes that can cause serious injury and death.
Pocket versions cost between $14 and $20. A new version of the drug reference guide is published annually, so you can expect this to be a recurring expense.
Stocking up on nursing supplies
Don’t be caught without the tools you need to deliver excellent patient care. While our list certainly isn’t inclusive of every item you may want to include in your nursing kit, it ticks off the most important if you are trying not to break your budget.
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“Evidence of Health Risks Associated with Prolonged Standing at Work and Intervention Effectiveness.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed March 3, 2022.
“How Much Does a Stethoscope Cost?” health.costhelper.com. Accessed March 3, 2022.
“Show Me the Science – When & How to Use Hand Sanitizer in Community Setting.” cdc.gov. Accessed March 3, 2022.
“The Cost of Scrubs.” thepricer.org. Accessed March 3, 2022.