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What Supplies Do You Need for Nursing School?

Kitty graduated from nursing school in 2013 and has been working as a registered nurse in a hospital setting ever since.

You'll need a high-quality stethoscope for clinicals in nursing school.

You'll need a high-quality stethoscope for clinicals in nursing school.

Preparing for Nursing School

You've been accepted into nursing school, and now you are preparing to begin your career as a nursing student and eventually a nurse. But first, you need to know what exactly you'll need as far as supplies for nursing school. You've come to the right place.

I recently graduated from nursing school. In this article, I'd like to share my comprehensive list of the supplies you will need to bring with you. Just remember one thing—no matter the supplies, you always have your brain and your drive.

Clinical Supplies: Must-Haves

Here is a list of must-have items for nursing school.

1. A Quality Stethoscope

First things first. You'll need a quality stethoscope in order to have a successful experience in clinicals. The problem with getting a low-costing stethoscope is that you just can't hear as much as you can with a higher-quality stethoscope like the Littman stethoscope. I believe I paid up to $60 for mine.

If you can't afford it, perhaps one of your loved ones can donate to your career! Do your research before purchasing a stethoscope and make sure you're getting a decent product. You'll want to hear as much of those heart and lung sounds as possible, trust me!

2. Penlight

You'll need a penlight for your assessments. Penlights are used for checking extra-ocular movements as well as for pupil size and reaction to light. They are also used to see into a patient's ears, nose, and mouth. Without a penlight, you will not be able to do a full head-to-toe assessment.

These are a pretty cheap product and can be found at scrub stores, uniform stores, and online. Make sure to get one that says "reusable"; otherwise, you might find you bought a "disposable" penlight, and you'll have to buy another.

3. Scissors

I can't tell you how many times I used my scissors during my clinical experience in nursing school. These are cheap and will save you in so many clinical situations! You will absolutely need them for dressing changes, and also to discontinue bandages/IVs/dressings, etc. You might also need them to simply open various packages while in the clinical setting.

Come to clinicals with these in your pocket every day, and you will not only be prepared, you might actually impress your precepting nurses and instructor. It seems like a simple thing, but I can't tell you how many times my preceptor needed scissors, and I was able to supply him/her with a pair!

4. Black Pens

For whatever reason, the medical world likes to use black ink . . . not blue, not red, not purple . . . but black ink. So be sure to stock up on your supply of black pens. This is not only because you will be doing a lot of writing but also because nurses are infamous for stealing others' pens! Make sure you have at least two in your pocket for each clinical day.

5. Sharpie Marker

Having a black sharpie marker in your pocket is also another must-have for clinical days. These come in handy for dressing changes so that you can clearly mark your initials/date/time on your new dressings. It comes in handy for other things, as well.

6. Small Notebook/Notepad

I always carried a small notebook/notepad that was small enough to fit in my pockets. This is so that you can have paper handy when you need to write down vital signs, medication information, and general information for your nursing care plans (that you're going to LOVE to write, by the way!)

Helpful hint: never write down your patients' names or personal identifying information as this is a confidentiality violation if someone was to see it.

7. ID Badge Holder/Pin

The lanyards we were given in nursing school were cheap and tended to be a pain in the butt more than helpful, so I suggest getting your own ID pin/holder. The best kind is one that pins to your shirt so that your ID isn't hanging down onto a patient during procedures/assessments/etc.

While a long lanyard might seem cool, you'll quickly realize how much it gets in the way during patient care and then how much time you'll be spending sanitizing the darn thing afterward.

Quick Supply List: Top 3 of Each Category

Clinical SuppliesClass Must-HavesUniforms


Laptop or Paper/Pen

Nursing Shoes



Scrub Jacket


Rolling Backpack

Hair Accessories (for Ladies)

In addition to the hundreds of books, you'll need a few other things for class in nursing school...

In addition to the hundreds of books, you'll need a few other things for class in nursing school...

Class Must-Haves

In addition to the gazillions of books that your school might require you to purchase, what else will you need for class? Depending on the type of learner you are, your supplies are going to vary, so I have broken it down into two types of class must-haves for nursing school:

1. The Digital Learner

If you are anything like me, you embrace technology and prefer to type your notes over writing them out every day. This is a quick list of your class must-haves:

  • Computer: laptop or tablet (something mobile so that you can use it in class to type notes during lecture and also to type papers up)
  • Word Processor: Microsoft Word, Works Word Processor, etc.
  • PDF Reader/Converter: If you can't afford Adobe, download the free CutePDF Reader that will allow you to make PDF documents for free.
  • E-versions of your books: if you're able to get digital versions of your nursing books, download them to your computer so there's less to carry on a daily basis. Save your back for your nursing career!

2. The Paper-and-Pen Learner

  • Binders for your notes, with dividers and labels
  • Plenty of paper and pens
  • Folders for loose-leaf papers and notes
  • Highlighters to mark important information in lectures and in your books
  • Notecards to study your meds, terms, and definitions, etc.

Uniform Must-Haves

Now that you know what kind of supplies you'll need for clinicals and for class, let's talk about what kind of uniform must-haves you'll need. Depending on what your school requires, you'll most likely need scrubs or business casual type clothing. Go with what your school says for those requirements.

Here are the uniform must-have accessories:

1. High-Quality Pair of Nursing Shoes

You're going to be doing a lot of work on your feet, especially at clinicals so get yourself a good quality pair of nursing shoes. Make sure they are comfortable and provide a lot of support.

2. Scrub Jacket

Unless your school has requirements on this, get yourself a clean and professional-looking scrub jacket. Sometimes the hospitals are freezing cold . . . even your school might be cold and so you'll want to stay warm and look professional, too!

3. Hair Accessories for the Ladies

I got tired of doing my hair in a plain ponytail every day, so I figured I'd get a little fancy with my hair. Most hospitals and schools do not want the ladies wearing anything too showy in their hair (i.e., huge hair bows or flowers); however, doing your hair in a cute and classy bun is acceptable and mixes it up from the normal ponytail hell we get stuck in.

You can find bun clips, ties, and nets at local pharmacies and convenience stores for fairly cheap. Also try a french twist clip to really look classy and professional!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Kitty Fields


Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 22, 2013:

This is such a comprehensive resource! You have covered everything. What a wonderful resource for aspiring nurses.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on December 16, 2013:

FlourishAnyway - I bet she does! Thanks for reading!

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 16, 2013:

Nice description for all those aspiring nurses and nurses in training. My sister is a women's health nurse practitioner and absolutely loves her career.