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22 Items Every Nursing Student Needs in Their Backpack

worklife | 5 min read

To help you survive (and thrive) nursing school we’ve compiled our top 21 essentials that every nursing student should have in their grab-and-go bag. Invest in a durable and versatile backpack that’s comfortable to tote around, functional to keep you organized and fashionable to express your amazing personality! Okay, now let’s talk about the fun stuff, nurse bag essentials!  

nurse student holding stethoscope

1. stethoscope

A stethoscope is one of the most important tools within the nursing profession. Used consistently in patient care, you’ll need it when taking manual blood pressures and performing head-to-toe assessments.

Tip: carry extra alcohol pads to clean your stethoscope before and after each shift.

Nurse on iphone

2. smartphone & chargers 

For a nursing student, your phone is much more than a device for texting and online shopping. It’s like an electronic Swiss Army Knife equipping you with nursing fundamentals like a calculator, flashlight, pharmacology apps, and when in doubt, the ability to “Google it.” Be sure to pack chargers too, you never want to be unprepared.

surgical mask PPE

3. all things PPE

We would be remiss to not mention PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) on this list, especially as COVID continues to be prevalent. We recommend every nursing bag to have a few pairs of face masks (surgical and N95), disposable latex gloves, goggles and/or face shield.

happy teeth backpack water bottle holder

4. water bottle 

We’ve all heard the advice to drink 8 glasses of water a day, easier said than done when balancing a hectic schedule, right? Keeping a water bottle within reach will help get you in the habit of prioritizing staying hydrated. Chose water over energy drinks, caffeinated or sugary beverages.

happy teeth insulated pouch snacks

5. snacks 😋

Nursing students are notorious for having long clinical hours and pulling all-night study groups. Avoid junk foods and opt for healthy snack options like whole fruit, nuts, and granola bars, they help keep you focused and energized.

nurse backpack with hand sanitizer

6. hand sanitizer

In today’s COVID world, infection control remains a priority. When washing your hands with soap and water isn’t an option, hand sanitizers are a great alternative. Keep a dedicated bottle clipped to your nursing bag for easy access and dispensing.

nurse drug book

7. drug handbook 

Medication administration is a major nursing responsibility. Be prepared by always carrying your preferred Drug Guide and/or reference materials that provide key pharmacology information. Having this information at your fingertips is a game-changer.

nurse backpack with pens

8. pens, pens & PENS! 

Nobody ever talks about how many pens a nurse goes through in a single shift… well, it’s a lot! So, stock up on your favorite ones. Retractable “clicky” pens are a fan favorite because you don’t want to stain your scrub top pocket with ink!

9. index cards & highlighters 

In a crowd, you can easily spot a nursing student simply by the number of index cards and highlighters they are carrying. Pack your backpack with both so you’ll always be ready for an impromptu study session or test prep.

10. notebooks

  Nursing students are very particular about their notes. Whether you’re in class or at clinical, make sure your backpack always has a notebook, clipboard or binder ready. The same goes for textbooks, think ahead and pack wisely.

apple watch on nurse

11. watch

Whatever your style is, traditional or smart, pack your nursing bag with a watch that displays seconds. Much more than an accessory, wrist watches are critical when charting, timing interventions or when taking a manual pulse.

nurse penlight

12. penlight

Every aspiring nurse needs to invest in a penlight. This simple tool is required for neuro assessments, checking pupil reactions and assessing darkened areas (i.e., back of throat). Added bonus, it can provide a touch of illumination during night shift.   

nurse backpack with penlight

13. laptop 

As a student, your laptop can feel like an extension of yourself at times. Whether you’re taking virtual classes or writing a paper, you need your laptop with you at all times. For piece of mind, purchase a backpack that includes a designated laptop compartment or sleeve for extra protection. 

Nursing equipment

14. nursing equipment: 

Although things like pulse oximeters, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs are provided within healthcare settings, many students opt to buy one for themselves. They can be used for extra practice or during simulation exercises.

nurse hand lotion

15. hand lotion

Hand Lotion: Working in healthcare, your hands are prone to dry, cracked skin due to constant hand washing. A little goes a long way, keep a bottle of your favorite hand lotion in your nursing bag and periodically apply throughout the day.

nurse medication in backpack

16. medications

As a nursing student, your day can easily get away from you. It’s recommended to keep prescription and over-the-counter medications in your nursing bag for quick access, if needed or for an emergency.

nurse compression socks

17. compression socks

Not only do compression socks help blood circulation, they reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis, spider or varicose veins. They also relieve swelling, sore, heavy and fatigued lower leg muscles.

nurse chapstick

18. personal products 

Because life happens! Pick one zippered pocket on your backpack for personal items such as deodorant, mouthwash, mints, chapstick, sanitary items, contact solution, glasses, etc.

nurse badge reel

19.  ID badge reel

 Your ID badge is an important part of your student nurse uniform. Lanyards are not recommended due to safety concerns so select a badge reel holder that clips onto your scrub top and easily extends and retracts.

gales nurse shoes

20.  antimicrobial shoes

You will be on your feet a lot! Not only do you need comfortable shoes but. it. a. good idea idea to get shoes that are antimicrobial waterproof and slip-resistant. Gales are the are great for  nurses and you can toss them in your shoe compartment of your. backpack!

empty plastic bag

21. empty plastic bag

 When that foley catheter explodes onto your scrub pants or feces find its way onto your left shoe (ewww!), you will want to secure the contaminated item ASAP! Keeping an empty plastic bag handy will do just the trick. Trust us on this one.

nurse badge reel

22.  extra scrubs

Expect the unexpected in nursing. Carrying an extra set of scrubs, clothes and shoes is always a good idea when packing-up for a clinical shift. Hopefully, you won’t need to use them, but if you do, you’ll be glad to have a spare set readily available.

pack wisely 

As you go out and conquer the world, take time to methodically think through and pack your nursing backpack. Strike the right balance with your nursing tools and essentials, school supplies, and personal items. Having everything within reach will ultimately save you time and stress. Nursing school is tough but so are you. You’re doing a great job, just stay the course and keep your eye on the prize – passing the NCLEX exam!

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