So many times, student get caught up in a buying frenzy before their first semester of school starts only to find they don’t use half of the books and supplies they were convinced they needed. If you’re looking to get just the things that can truly have an impact, then consider this your go-to list. Straight A Nursing is reader-supported, so when you purchase items through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more here.
Comfortable Shoes in All White or Black
Most nursing schools require a very specific type of shoe. Typically this will stipulated as all black or all white with no fabric or mesh.
The goal is to have shoes that can be easily identified as clean and also easy to clean! Many students will spend hundreds of dollars on high-end performance shoes when really you can most likely get by with a basic pair of white nursing shoes like these Hawkwells (#ad). They’re easy to clean, lightweight and the reviews say they are really comfortable and a great shoe for the price. #ad
Now, if you have a foot-related disorder then you may need a specialized shoe. But for the most part, something like this could work just fine. And at less than $40 for ladies’ shoes, it’s a steal!
At first glance, this may not seem like a must-have item, but compression socks are almost even more important than shoes. Once I started wearing compression socks at work, I noticed a huge improvement and far less ache in my legs and feet after long shifts.
This brand is my favorite and the one I wholeheartedly recommend. Available for women and men, Sockwells compression socks feature graduated compression to minimize swelling and fatigue (#ad). They’re incredibly sturdy and I have pairs that have lasted for years. So while they are a little expensive as far as socks go, they’re an excellent investment and completely worth every penny.
A Stethoscope That Won’t Break the Bank
I know there’s a huge temptation to spend a lot of money on a high-dollar stethoscope with the assumption that the more money you spend, the easier it will be to hear things like heart tones or lung sounds. And while there are specialized stethoscopes that do amplify hard-to-hear sounds, this really isn’t necessary for a nursing student’s scope of practice.
My advice? Get a solid stethoscope that will get you through school, such as the Littmann Master Classic II or III (#ad). If you find it lacking once you graduate, then spring for a high-dollar steth once you’ve got a steady paycheck coming in. Guess what? I still use a Littmann 12 years later. #ad
At less than $100, it’s a good stethoscope that will serve you well.
Unless you’re working in the ER or as a flight nurse, you probably don’t need trauma sheers. But, you will use the heck out of utility scissors (#ad). In fact, this tool (along with my hemostats) are the things I reach for the most when working at the bedside. #ad
Utility scissors are great for cutting gauze that doesn’t need to be sterile, opening the plastic bags that IV antibiotics and fluids come in, and getting salad dressing packets open at lunch (seriously!). Be sure to get a pair that are easily identifiable because I guarantee you will leave then lying on a bedside table at least once.
Hemostats (AKA: My Favorite Bedside Tool)
These hemostats are serrated which gives them a really strong grip, but if you are using hemostats for clamping Foley bags or chest tubes, you want to make sure you are using a tool made for that purpose (they will NOT be serrated as it could puncture the tubing). #ad
I use my hemostats routinely to grip IV tubing that someone has screwed on as though their license and life depended on it. And yes, this can happen multiple times per shift.
A Clipboard for Clinical
This storage clipboard is heavy-duty, has an inside compartment to keep paperwork private and even comes with a separate compartment for your other favorite clinical item…your pens! #ad
Even something as simple as having a firm writing surface can make getting report so much easier as you’re standing at the bedside. I loved having a sturdy clipboard with me all throughout nursing school and you will, too!
A Watch with a Second Hand
Easy to clean, second hand, glow in the dark hands, 24-hour clock, and affordable.
The Speidel Scrub 30 Medical Watch meets each of those criteria and is exactly the watch I would get if I couldn’t wear my Apple Watch at work (#ad). The coolest thing about this watch is the “pulsometer” which makes it really easy to take a pulse rate for 15 second intervals. The next coolest thing about this watch is the price!
Clinical Bag to Hold it All
Having a sturdy and easy-to-wipe-down clinical bag is a must for any nursing student and nurse. This is the same bag that I use as a bedside RN and one I can wholeheartedly recommend to students as well.
The Crest Design Nylon Laptop Shoulder Bag is made of water-repellent nylon and has enough pockets for all your must-have supplies (and a few nice-to-have supplies as well!). #ad
Plus, it comes in a variety of colors, though this dark grey is my favorite. Measuring 15″ L x 11″ H and 6.3″ D, it can even hold a laptop and your storage clipboard easily.
Binders for My Two-Binder System
Regardless of how you use your binders or even how many you use, it’s important to have sturdy binders that can hold a LOT of paper as you go throughout nursing school.
These binders from Staples (and available on Amazon) come in a variety of colors, hold up well to repeated and daily use, and come in a range of sizes. #ad
A Planner That You Actually Use
While I am the first to say the planners I design specifically for nursing students are The Best Ever, really what matters is that you have a planner that you will routinely and faithfully use.
For some students, that’s a digital calendar such as Google Calendar, and for others it’s a paper planner like these.
The key with any planning system is to plan your schedule with intention so you can truly see when each task, assignment and block of studying will get done. And of course, scheduling time to do your planning means it gets done every single week. In other words, plan your planning sessions in your planner!
A Computer Riser
The Flexispot Standing Desk Converter is a height-adjustable computer riser that enables you to sit or stand at your desk, thanks to it’s fluid ability to easily go from 4.7″ all the way up to 19.7″. #ad
I don’t know about you, but standing keeps me so much more engaged than sitting. And when I was in graduate school (and writing so so many papers), I noticed an almost immediate improvement in back pain simply by converting to a standing desk.
I purchased a book stand midway through my first semester of nursing school and have never looked back. In fact, I still use one to this day and it has a permanent spot on my standing desk.
This Bamboo Book Stand is lightweight but sturdy, even for those hefty nursing school textbooks (#ad). And once school is finished, it makes a great cookbook stand for all those gourmet meals you’ll make someday!
Page Tabs and Flags
Use the big tabs to designated your notes by module or week and then use the smaller flags to designate specific topics.
These tabs by 3M are sturdy plastic, so they’ll stand up to a lot of use (#ad). Plus, they’re sticky enough to stay where you put them, while also being easy to reposition.
In other words, they’re amazing!
Highlighters in Multiple Colors
In my Crucial Concepts Bootcamp, I encourage students to assign different types of information to different colors. For example, meds in orange, numeric values in green, signs/symptoms in purple, nursing interventions in blue and labs in yellow. What colors you use and what you choose to highlight is up to you…just define your system and stick to it!
I love the Zeyar Highlighters…just look at those colors! #ad
A Rolling Backpack
I know what you’re going to say and yes, I used to say the same thing…rolling backpacks are for nerds. But the ease with which you can cart a ton of stuff around makes me more than happy to be a total nerd.
This rolling pack is actually a rolling overnight case, but it works beautifully for carting around your textbooks, school supplies, laptop, snacks, water bottle, and pretty much anything else you might need. #ad
I loved mine so much I kept it for years and ended up using it again when I went to graduate school.
And yes, I took it on a few trips as well 🙂
A Reliable and Affordable Printer
The Epson EcoTank is a fantastic choice for nursing students (#ad). Not only is it affordable and easy to use, the printer uses cartridge-free printing which can save you up to 90% on ink and produce far less waste.
This model includes a built-in scanner and copier, which can certainly come in handy even after nursing school.
What I love the most about my Epson (aside from how long the cartridges last…which is impressive!), is that it’s wireless and super easy to set up.
If you’re looking for a printer, definitely take a look at an EcoTank!
Laptop, Desktop, iPad or Tablet
If I had to choose between a laptop and desktop for nursing school, I’d definitely go with a laptop. My favorite is the MacBook Air, and Apple does provide student discounts.
As for tablets, they can come in really handy, especially for storing and accessing your digital textbooks and even taking notes with an app like GoodNotes or Notability.
The main decision here is going to boil down to budget and how you’ll use the technology.
Drug Guide – Physical or Digital
My go-to drug guide reference is Davis Drug Guide for Nurses, which is available as a physical book and online (#ad). I definitely prefer the online version as it’s the most up-to-date, easily searchable and always readily available (as long as you have wifi, of course).
Be careful of free online drug references as they may not include all the information you need for your care plans. When in doubt, ask your professor.
Lab Reference Guide
One of the other references I used heavily in nursing school was my lab reference guide. I am a huge fan of the Mosby’s guide. #ad
Students often spend an incredible amount of energy memorizing normal lab value reference ranges, and then are shocked to see that exams, case studies and care plans care so much more about what’s actually going on with the patient.
In other words, a lab reference guide will help you decipher and understand what abnormal lab values mean for your patient, their disease process, and their plan of care. This is key information you can use in clinical, exams, sim lab, and when you’re working as a nurse!
A Combo Air Fryer and Pressure Cooker
Students in my Thriving Nursing Students Facebook Group were going wild over this device lately. The Ninja Foodi is a combo air fryer and pressure cooker, which makes it super easy to prepare fast meals without resorting to fast food. #ad
This particular model has so many functions, so you can use it as a slow cooker (throw everything in before you leave in the morning), a pressure cooker (throw everything in when you get home at night), a yogurt maker and so much more.
For students who want to eat home-cooked meals in a fraction of the time, definitely add this one to your birthday or holiday wish list.
A High-Speed Blender
Now, before you go and spend $400+ on a VitaMix, take a look at the Ninja BL610 Professional Blender. (#ad) At less than a quarter of the price of a new VitaMix, it can crush ice and blend everything together so it’s smooth and delicious. The PERFECT breakfast to take when you are on the run.
My favorite smoothie recipe includes a handful of greens, a banana, a cup of frozen wild blueberries, a scoop of chocolate protein powder and a tablespoon of PB2. You’re welcome.
Dry Shampoo (Seriously)
Dry shampoos work to remove oil from your hair on those not-so-fresh days, leaving you feeling and smelling fresh and clean. I love Drybar brand because it smells delicious and is parabel and phthalate free. #ad
Another great advantage to dry shampoo is it adds lift to the roots which gives your second (or third or fourth or fifth) day hair a boost of volume. And yes, guys can use dry shampoo too…you might want to choose one that’s made for guys.