nursing school clinicalPerforming well in your nursing school clinical is nerve-wracking even on a good day. There is so much pressure. You want to do well, you hope your instructor likes you, and that the patient and staff are nice.

So to ease some of that stress, make sure you are prepared. Here’s a list of what you should bring to a clinical:

  1. Stethoscope – This is one of your primary instruments in assessing patients. I advise you to invest in a high-quality one. It will not only work better—it will last your whole nursing career. (I used the same one for over 15 years.) Make sure it has your name on it and I do not recommend leaving it at the desk. They tend to get “legs” and walk off.

  2. Penlight – You cannot check your patient’s pupils if you do not have a penlight. They are small and fit in your pocket, so there is no reason not to have one. They also come in handy when you’re looking for something in other dark crevasses.

  3. Scissors – Every good nurse has a pair of scissors in their pocket or in their little nurse bag they keep close by. You will need them and not always when you expect. Be prepared and have them with you. My mom was a nurse and she always had her handy bandage scissors in her purse – once a nurse, always a nurse.

  4. Pen/Paper – Although most records are electronic, you will still need to take report or jot down some notes to give your report to your instructor. Make sure you have your pen and paper always ready so you don’t hold up the staff while you fumble along. I always recommend using those small spiral notebooks that fit in your pocket.

  5. Report sheet/Brain sheet – I suggest you find a sheet that makes it easy for you to take report. Most nurses have developed systems to stay organized, so ask what works for them and don’t try to re-invent the wheel. You might have to tweak it a bit to make it work for you, but it will save you time being organized. You can find all sorts of versions with a quick Google image search.

  6. Reference material – Most nursing schools now require some type of software that can be loaded or accessed from your smartphone or other electronic devices. These are great quick resources when on the go at clinicals. However, you have to know how to use them. Spend some time getting familiar with how to look up medications, labs, and diseases.

    When I was in nursing school with the “dinosaurs,” we always voted to select someone who should bring the drug book and the textbook. See how good you got it? Your references now fit in your pocket. But these are useless if you do not know how to access it!

  7. A great attitude – What you bring won’t matter if you do not bring a great attitude and a willingness to learn. This will get you so much further than the things in your pocket. So many students just “get by” in clinicals, missing out on so many opportunities and experiences. Your clinical day is just that—YOURS. Make the best out of it.

There are a few things I do not suggest bringing to clinicals. These include basically anything you do not want to lose. Space is usually at a premium, so you will likely have to leave your bag in the nurses’ lounge unsecured. I tell my students to not bring anything valuable that they can’t carry on themselves. I follow this philosophy myself—I bring some money for lunch and carry my keys in my pocket. If my bag gets stolen, I will not starve and can still get home!

Do you bring other items to your clinicals in nursing school to make your day easier?