Nursing School Essentials: Ready To Start Nursing School?

By Craig Miller

02/18/2022



  • Being prepared with the right nursing school supplies sets you up to succeed at nursing school.
  • Your supplies will fall into three categories: lecture supplies, clothing, and clinical supplies.
  • As you go through nursing school, you will find what works best for you, but getting some general ideas is a great starting point.

Okay, so you’re ready to start nursing school. It’s crazy and exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

Having the right tools can make all the difference during your time in nursing school. And you can break that list of supplies into three categories: lecture supplies, clothing, and clinical supplies. But let’s start with a fundamental question to get this process started:

Where are you going to nursing school?

Nursing classes are both expensive and time-consuming. Suppose you want to graduate as quickly as possible. In that case, you might be able to get into an accelerated program, which can cut down your supply and school expenses.

Once you’re in a nursing program, it’s time to get your hands on the specifics. Most schools will give you a list of required materials that you will need for classes and clinical. Make sure to start with this list. Once you have this list, you can start shopping for your supplies.

Lecture supplies

Whether your program is more clinical-based or lecture-based, you will still spend a decent amount of time in lectures and studying. What you end up getting will be based on how you learn and your preferences, but there are a few essentials that everyone needs:

Laptop

Make sure you check your school’s requirements. Some of the software you will need might not be as compatible with specific brands. Consider what you want to and what will make it easiest to study. It is helpful to get a laptop that is easy to transport and has a decent amount of storage space.

Textbooks

Buy any textbooks that your courses require. Sometimes, these will be in an online format, but consider getting a hard copy if that is how you best learn.

Study materials

There are lots of options of online study materials available to nursing students. If you know people who have been through the same program you are going into, you can ask what study materials they recommend. You can also ask your professors if they have any nursing study guide ideas. In addition to any online material, make sure to get the following:

Your favorite type of pen: It can make studying all the more enjoyable if you have pens that you enjoy using.

Flashcards: You can go hardcopy as a review material or create online quizzes.

  • Notebooks: Having plenty of paper on hand allows you to take notes, but there are digital options too.
  • Highlighters and Sticky Notes: Use these to mark out important areas for study and what you still need to review.

Backpack

Get something comfortable for you. Once you have a laptop and textbooks, you will need something to carry them in. Depending on how heavy everything is, consider getting a backpack with wheels. Your back will thank you later.

Clothing

When it comes to nursing, comfortable and practical are key. Think about what you get for clinical clothing as an investment. It is a time to explore brand options and discover what you will likely use later in your nursing career.

Nursing Scrubs

Yes, the scrubs are everything. First things first, check your school’s requirements. Most schools will require students to wear a white scrub top, and some schools also require white pants. It’s best to have at least two clinical uniforms.

Ask nurses you know what brands of scrubs they recommend. Buy from a few different brands for your first semester, so you can discover what you like.

Find something comfortable that allows you to move quickly. Make sure to get what’s practical: scrubs with lots of pockets. Trust me, the first day you wear a scrub top or bottom with no pockets, you will instantly regret it.

For scrub bottoms, it’s great if you can find ones with large pockets on both pant legs. When deciding if it’s big enough, ask yourself: could I squeeze my blood pressure cuff or stethoscope in here if I had to? Because at some point, you’re going to need to do that. You’ll thank me later.

Compression Socks

Your clinical won’t involve as much on your feet work as an actual nursing job. While some schools have twelve-hour shift clinicals, some are only between eight and six hours of real time out on the floor.

Still, it’s best to take care of yourself now and invest in a few good pairs of compression socks. These help with blood return and reduce how sore your feet and legs will feel at the end of a long clinical day. Plus, you’ll keep using them after you’re out of school and practicing as a nurse.

Nursing Shoes

Comfort and support are what matter most. Nursing requires a lot of running around and standing for long periods. Make sure that you get shoes that offer good arch support and fit you well.

Again, check your school requirements. While nursing crocs are pretty comfortable, some schools will not allow students to wear them. Schools may also require that you buy white shoes as well. Talking to active nurses in the field can help you decide on a good brand and shoe type.

Take a minute to think about the lecture too.

In a lecture, what you wear can impact your performance. While sweatpants are comfy, make sure you wear clothes that help you focus and get you in a mindset for learning. Whether that is jeans or your favorite socks, wear clothes that help you put your best foot forward to learn.

Clinical supplies

Clinical is a critical component in nursing school. It’s a time to practice the skills you’ll need as a nurse. Again start with what your school requires and work from there. Here are a few of the essentials:

Stethoscope

Whether it’s for listening to lungs, heart, or bowel sounds, you’re going to need it both as a student and as a nurse. If you can’t hear anything, you can’t make accurate assessments.

A good stethoscope can cost anywhere between $100 to over $300, but it can be worth it for high quality. You can start with a basic stethoscope as a nursing student and then get a more specialized one as you begin working as a nurse. For example, if you end up working with neonates, you might get a stethoscope that works best with this population.

Littman is one popular brand, and their basic 3M Littmann is a decent starting place. The cost for the basic is about $100. Suppose you decide you like the brand in nursing school. In that case, you can get one of their even more high-quality stethoscopes like the 3M Littmann Cardiology IV once you start practicing as a nurse.

Blood Pressure Cuff

Accurate blood pressure readings are essential to the health and wellbeing of your patients. You’re going to need to learn how to do manual blood pressures within your first semester of nursing school. Your school will likely require you to have a blood pressure cuff.

There are a variety of brands you can choose from, but make sure to get one where you can easily see the numbers to get your readings. Keep in mind that you need to be ready and on the go during clinical. So, getting a blood pressure cuff that fits nicely in your pocket can help you decide what brand to get.

Other clinical essentials

Make sure to get anything else your school requires you to get. But keep in mind that some supplies will be handier the further you get in the program. A few other essentials include:

  • A watch: If you get a watch with a second hand, you can use it to help you measure someone’s pulse or respirations. Remember, there won’t always be a clock around when you need it.
  • A bag for your supplies: Ideally, this is not too bulky but still allows you to keep all of your supplies in one place without damaging anything.
  • An insulated lunch bag: Chances are you’ll get hungry at clinical. Whether it’s your meal break or snack time, having a good storage space for food is helpful.
  • Penlight: This is helpful for neurological assessments and examining patients’ ears and throats. You might not need it for your first semester, but you’ll want it for these more in-depth assessments later on
  • Medical tape: You might need this for dressing changes and labeling. It’s best to always keep some in your pocket. Trust me, the need will arise.
  • Hemostats: You can use these for things like clamping IV tubing. You might need them as you learn more about intravenous therapy.
  • Notepad and pens: You’ll need them to write down vitals or other quick notes. Click pens work best because you don’t have to worry about losing the caps.
  • Sharpie markers: A pen won’t work for everything. You can use a sharpie to label IV sites, dressings, and IV tubing. Plus, you can use them if you lose your pens.
  • Pocket hand sanitizer and lotion: Clean hands are essential! While the hospital often has hand sanitizer, it can dry out your hands quickly. Investing in moisturizing sanitizer and some lotion can help you avoid chapped hands.
  • Thermos: You need to make sure you stay hydrated and caffeinated. Investing in a good travel mug lets you do both. Whether you’re filling up with coffee or water, a good travel mug lets you take it on the go.

You will find what works best for you.

Take a deep breath. It can feel overwhelming to think about everything you’re going to need. Remember, start by looking at your school requirements and then expand your list from there based on what you want.

You know yourself, and you know how to give yourself a leg up. Nursing school is going to be great. So, get out there and get the supplies you’ll need to get started.

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