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What’s in your pockets?


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Every nurse (and student nurse!) carries around the essentials, here’s my “Top Ten” pocket-essentials for nursing and clinicals!
  1. Pens – There’s something magical about nursing – nurses can make pens disappear into thin air! Make sure you keep extras near by, but always have a black ink pen on hand. Even if your hospital has gone paper-less, you’ll need it to mark something, sign something, or make a note of something. Highlighters for your own use – marking up your papers, and a dry erase marker for your patient boards.
  2. Stethoscope – I guess this one is a given, but you want to make sure you get a stethoscope you can use effectively (i.e. the ear pieces aren’t poking your brain so hard you can’t concentrate on the sound), and also make sure you have a type specific to your patient population (adult, cardio, peds, neonates, etc).
  3. Bandage scissors – There’s always a use for these, even when you’re not cutting bandages or tape. No sense wasting time fumbling around trying to open packaging for a pulse ox, keeping a (good) pair of bandage scissors on you will save you time. Just make sure you keep an eye on them, don’t let them wander off with those pens!
  4. Penlight – A penlight is an essential for a good neuro check, and to me, this is the part of the nursing assessment that is most often glazed over in non-neuro patients. Having my own pen light in my pocket is a reminder to me that I need to use it, complete my assessment, and make sure that I don’t skip it even if the patient is alert and oriented X4!
  5. Alcohol prep pads – I know for clinical I stock my pockets full of these. You need them for IVs, you need them to clean off your pens – you need them. A lot of them. On hand, all the time.
  6. Saline flushes – I’ll never forget the instructor who would check meds with us in the morning, and then as we were leaving the med room would grab a hand full of saline flushes and shove them in my pockets saying, “you’re going to need these!” and I always thought there was no way I would need all of these flushes. But sure enough, she was right! You probably don’t need a handful (especially since they’re bulky and their packaging makes a lot of noise in your already-full pockets) but having a spare has never hurt!
  7. Tape – Taping and re-taping IV’s, taping a sign on a door, taping around a pulse-ox to keep it secure, tape is essential. Paper, plastic, satin, whatever you prefer, it will always come in handy
  8. Chapstick/lotion – I always carry a chapstick, since my lips chap easily, if you need it, keep it on hand so you’re not running back to your locker/bag to grab it. Lotion can be too bulky for your pocket, but if you can find a small tub of it, and your hands dry out (especially with constant sanitizer use and hand washing), it’s important to maintain your own skin integrity.
  9. Brain – Not the one in your head, but whatever it is that keeps you organized throughout the day. A change of shift sheet, a hospital-provided “brain” to keep track of everything that goes on is how you’re going to stay on top of it. Students, if you don’t have one, make your own! Check out this blog to find out what to add!
  10. Cash – Last but not least, carry a few dollars on you in case you need a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack or a quick cup of coffee. I know I always need my morning coffee with breakfast, and maybe something sweet in the afternoon!

Every nurse carries their supplies out of experience. These are what I’ve found to be practical and necessary when I am in the clinical setting and at work. What’s in your pockets?

Ani Burr, RN
I'm a brand new, full-fledged, fresh-out-of-school RN! And better yet, I landed the job of my dreams working with children. I love what I do, and while everyday on the job is a new (and sometimes scary) experience, I'm taking it all in - absorbing everything I can about this amazing profession we all fell in love with.

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