One of the worst things you can do as a new nurse is show up to work un- or under-prepared. But how do you know what to bring to your brand-new job at the local hospital? This type of practical knowledge isn’t usually taught in nursing school, but a well-packed bag can make a huge difference in your day. We talked with a few nurses, and here are the best suggestions for what to bring in your daily nurse bag.
It’s not just doctors that carry around stethoscopes, and it’s not just so everyone knows they are doctors. As you probably figured out in nursing school, the stethoscope is one of the most useful tools of the trade for any healthcare professional. It is used to assess the healthy function of the heart, the veins, and even the intestines. It is by far the most essential tools for a nurse, and you should make sure to have it with you in your bag every single day that you go to work.
- Reference Materials
Despite what your nursing school professors may have told you, it’s going to be totally impossible to memorize every single medication, treatment, policy, and protocol that you will come into contact with during your nursing career. While we’d all like to be able to store that information handily in our own brains, it just won’t work out that way.
This is why you should bring with you all of the guides and reference books that will make your daily work just a little bit easier. One that you’ll definitely want to have with you is a drug guide that includes generic and brand drugs along with their contraindications, side effects, etc. You may also want to include a facility handbook that includes guidelines for company policies and procedures. Being able to readily double-check a situation means you’ll keep yourself out of hot water. One specific guide that many nurses swear by is the Swearingen’s Manual of Medical-Surgical Nursing, a guide that includes information and instructions on how to provide the best patient care.
- Hand Sanitizer
Most facilities will have several accessible sanitizing stations but carrying around your own travel-sized hand sanitizer will make sure your hands are at the top of their hygiene game regardless of where you are in the building. You’ll cut down on time wasted walking to a station and you’ll ensure your patient’s safety.
That hand sanitizer you’re using all the time? It’s great for hygiene but it can wreak absolute havoc on your hands. It contains mostly alcohol which is incredibly drying. Add in all the times that you will be washing your hands with soap and water, and you’re likely facing some dry, raw skin on your hands. Bring along a small bottle of lotion to use when your hands are feeling extra dry, but make sure that it’s a non-greasy formula to prevent sticky fingerprints around your area.
- A 4-Way Pen
Depending on the type of paperwork you’re completing, you might need different colors of pen. Black and blue are the most common, but you could also be using red ink regularly as well. A retractable pen with those three colors (plus green, usually) will ensure that you have every color you need without having to carry around more than one pen.
- Watch with Second Hand
This won’t necessarily go in your bag since they are handy enough to wear around your wrist, but a second-hand watch will be helpful when taking heart rates or anything that needs to be timed. Of course, you could always use your phone timer, but pulling out a personal cellular device with a patient looks a lot less professional.
- Sanitary Items
Sanitary items that are regularly used in a hospital are a great thing to keep with you in your bag at all times. After all, a nurse is less effective without the tools of her trade! Consider packing items like sterile gloves and masks, a few clean cotton balls, and some sterile gauze. These items can be stored in a nice pouch or even a Ziploc back to keep them away from the other items in your bag.
- Over-The-Counter Medication
Simple OTC items are a good idea to keep with you in your bag for emergency situations. Anything from ibuprofen or aspirin to cold medicine and allergy relief will come in handy at some point, whether for yourself or another nurse.
Nurses are nothing if not prepared, and by having the right stuff in your everyday bag, you’ll not only feel like a good nurse, but everyone else will also see you as someone who is prepared for anything. While the list above is not comprehensive, it does include some of the most common items you should keep. You will definitely have a few extra things in there for your own personal needs as well.