6 Must-Have Items for New Nurses

by NurseJournal Staff
• 3 min read

Beginning your career as a nurse can seem daunting. Nursing school places a significant pressure on students to help prepare them for the demands of working in a hospital or clinic. For those entering nursing school, and professionals stepping into the workforce, however, all preparation can fail without proper tools and preparation.

This guide offers advice from two nurses, each with a decade's worth of experience. Some nurse must-haves may surprise you. Overall, these nurse tools help with issues of organization and time management, preparing new nurses to navigate the challenging, busy, and sometimes overwhelming healthcare field.

If you want more information on how to succeed as you begin your nursing career and things nurses need, read tips for nurses in their first year and this guide covering the five most common mistakes made by new nurses.

  • 1. Laptop Computer

    Nursing education programs take place through online courses, streaming lectures, and virtual class discussions. Owning a laptop allows nurses and nursing students to stay connected to these educational programs and other learning resources.

    "As technology advances, nursing education is transitioning to hybrid (virtual and classroom) formats," says Nicholas McGowan, registered nurse and CEO of the Critical Care Academy.

    "Take your laptop with you to campus, study group, or even a local coffee shop to complete care plans, research papers, and presentations," McGowan advises.

    You can find laptops through many different stores, such as BestBuy, Overstock.com, and eBay.

  • 2. Personal Planner

    Nursing students and new nurses endure hectic schedules. Keeping a system of organization to manage your day can help you stay in control.

    "Although paper planners are nice for quickly jotting down dates and times," McGowan says, "digital planners sometimes prove more convenient."

    "Digital planners or calendars work well for setting reminders, and you can update or share your schedule with friends and family in real time," McGowan explains. "Plus, you don't have to worry about misplacing or even losing it."

    Many bookstores and office supply stores, such as Barnes and Noble and The Paper Store, sell planners online.

  • 3. Littmann Stethoscope

    Stethoscopes are the quintessential representation of healthcare professionals for the critical role they play in nursing and physician jobs.

    "As a first-year nursing student, you will use your stethoscope every single day and often multiple times per day. So invest in a quality one like the tried and tested Littmann from 3M," advises Alaina Ross, RN, and expert contributor for Test Prep Insight.

    "You'll use your stethoscope for assessing important vital signs, such as pulse rate, lung sounds, bowel sounds, and heart tones," Ross adds.

    You can find these stethoscopes on Littmann's website or several Littman models at Stethoscope.com.

  • 4. Comfortable Compression Socks

    Socks might not be the first thing you consider when gathering your nursing equipment, but they play an important role in keeping nurses on their feet all day.

    "Good compression socks will gently push blood flow up the leg, which helps to prevent varicose veins, swelling, and even blood clots," Ross says. "You'll be on your feet a lot, and you'll be glad you wore these at the end of the day."

    Although several clothing websites sell compression socks, you can find them specifically for nurses at stores like Scrubs and Beyond and Uniform Advantage.

  • 5. Water-resistant Watch

    Keeping track of your schedule with a planner doesn't help if you do not keep track of the time, which is why McGowan advises purchasing a good water-resistant watch.

    "Time management is at the basic core of nursing," he says. "Invest in a good watch with a second hand so you can accurately measure vital signs."

    As a nurse, you will handle many fluids and wash your hands several times a day. McGowan suggests choosing a water-resistant watch so it will last.

    Many different stores sell waterproof watches, including your local Walmart or Target.

  • 6. Pack of Your Favorite Pens

    Lastly, make sure to keep a plentiful pen supply.

    "This may sound simple and should be an afterthought, but as a first-year nursing student, you're going to be writing a ton," Ross says.

    Once you begin your job as a nurse, you will regularly jot down notes from patients and doctors.

    "Nurses can never have enough pens, and you're always losing them somehow," Ross says. "So invest in a few packs of your favorite pens."

    Office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot make great sources for pens. The aptly-named website Pens.com also sells a large variety.

Meet Our Contributors

Nicholas McGowan holds 10 years of experience in cardiovascular, surgical intensive care, and neurological trauma nursing. He served as president of the AACN Inland Empire Chapter and led over 500 members in the Southern California region. Nicholas also piloted the rapid response program for one of the largest healthcare organizations in the nation. He now manages the Critical Care Academy and consults with regional healthcare organizations.


Alaina Ross is an RN, BSN, with 10 years of experience as a pre-op and PACU nurse. Alaina is also an expert contributor for Test Prep Insight, a company that helps nursing students prepare for exams like the TEAS and NCLEX.

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