The semester is starting!
I can hear those alarms going off for 0700 clinicals already. I have seen lots of recommended back-to-school supply lists that have cute, glittery planners plastered with stickers and pens that come in all the colors of the rainbow. These lists are lovely however you’re going to nursing school, not creating a Pinterest board. While it has been awhile since I have been a student, I have crafted a guaranteed list of down and dirty supplies over the years to help you get started on the right foot for the school year and your future shifts at work –
- Coffee – There is not enough coffee in the world for nursing school. Map out the nearest coffee shop to your classes and clinicals. Time your routes and take into account all possible delays, like if there’s a long line or a zombie outbreak, so that you won’t be late for class. If you’re on a budget, buy a tried and true home set-up and do a practice run with your home kit before your first day of classes. Invest in a good travel mug so that the sweet java stays hot all day long. #coffeeislife
- Snacks – Once you have coffee, you will need calories. I consumed endless amounts of protein bars while in nursing school. As a nurse, I have switched to straight boiled eggs. Whatever your fancy, pack small meals or snacks to help get you through the day. Your brain needs calories to think.
- Water – After caffeine and calories, you next need water. Get a water bottle. Like a camel, you need to be able to survive off your own water stores until your instructors tell you that it’s OK to go to the facilities. During nursing school, you don’t know when you will have a break. Another tip – get one with a good lid. My backpack once had an episode of water bottle incontinence and only by the grace of the Patho Gods, did my laptop not get fried. Get a water bottle with a good lid. Tight seal. Enough said.
- Pens – Black or blue ink is classic and won’t confuse your schoolwork with an episode of My Little Pony. Do not show up to class without pens. Just like at the hospital if you show up without a writing utensil, your classmates may or may not be able to/willing to bail you out with a loaner. I love cheap pens that come in a box for under $20. If you loose them or someone touches it with their poopy fingers, it’s no big loss. Like everybody, I like all the photos of pretty notes in 34 colors, but I just want a pen that writes in the color of A+.
- Laptop or Tablet – We live in the digital era. Type your notes. It will save you time. If you want to kick it up a notch, find other people to take notes for different classes and then share to make a hive of mega-notes that will carry you all to glory. Teamwork makes the dream work.
- Watch – You need to know the time in nursing school. Don’t always rely on your phone. Having your phone out all the time makes it look like you’re not paying attention, even when you are. Get a watch. Learn to sneak glances at it while still maintaining direct eye-contact with your professor. This skill will take you very far in your nursing career.
- Apps – There are a million medical resources apps. I have no affiliations with any of these (ALTHOUGH I LIKE MONEY! NICE APP COMPANIES - I WILL BE YOUR AFFILIATE!) A few of my favorite medical apps from the old school to today include –
- Epocrates - This app helped me with all things pharmacology. It contains dosing infomration (adult & peds), contraindications & administration directions for everything. Remember to always read about the meds before you give them.
- Medscape - Medscape is my resource for every random question that I may have while on shift. I use it weekly now in my bedside care. Most hospitals even have Medscape embedded in their intranet. Use it. Learn it. Love it.
- WebMD - Another good app for all your random symptom, disease and other medical questions. Patients may use it incorrectly, but it can be a great source of info for clinicians.
- Taber’s Medical Dictionary - All those big words... what do they mean? Taber's Medical Dictionary will help you find meaning to all the crazy medical terms.
- NurseGrid - Need to figure out when you and your classmates can get together to study amidst your millions of conflicting schedules? NurseGrid is a scheduling app made by nurses for nurses (and nursing students). Create easy-to-read schedules that you can share with your classmates. It's pretty great.
- Jacket – You need a good jacket that will carry your through class and clinicals. It’s a fact – universities and hospitals cannot seem to regulate their temperature. It’s usually borderline freezing, even in the middle of summer. Get a comfy jacket to avoid hypothermia throughout your studies and clinical rotations.
- Bag – You need a nurse bag. It doesn’t have to be crazy or expensive. It just needs to fit your stuff, be comfortable to carry and ideally, waterproof. Why waterproof? Because you never know what funky floor you are going to sit it on in the hospital.
- Schedule Holder – It is necessary to have somewhere to put your insane school/clinical/study/exam/sleep schedule. But I am not going to use the word “planner” here because I hate paper. I know some people love their paper calendars but WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LOOSE IT?? I like to keep mine in my phone which syncs with my computer. Do as you will. If you need a cutesy, paper planner – DO IT. Just have your schedule somewhere easy to find and hard to lose.
- Good Attitude – This is essential to get you through school and your nursing career. Nursing school was one of the hardest things that I ever did. It was only because of the members of my cohort that I was able to get through everything. I never would have been able to keep them in my good graces if I didn’t have a good attitude. That will also go for your future colleagues. Healthcare is a team sport and if you are the Debbie Downer or Poophead Paula, no one is going to help you. You cannot nurse alone. Keep a good attitude, and you will be successful.
- Support Group – I already mentioned my amazing nursing school cohort (SHOUTOUT CNL C/O 2010). But you need more than just nursing school friends to get through nursing because guess what – NURSING SCHOOL ENDS. Your friends will get blown to the four corners of the earth and as much as you will try, you will not be able to depend on them as much as while you’re in school. Set yourself up for success and find a good support system outside of school. Family, friends, partners, pets – it doesn’t matter who as long as you can talk to them and depend on them for support and love.
- Nurse Mentor – I waited too long to find one of these. A nurse mentor is someone who has been where you are going and can guide you towards success They are there to listen to you vent, get peppered with questions, and received yours texts in the wee hours of the morning (WARNING – there are no promises on their response time). If they do not know the answers, they will help you find them. They are a shoulder to lean on and help you through the hard days, because there will be many, during your nursing school journey.
That’s it! The Down and Dirty Nursing School Supply List from New Thing Nurse! There are many other things that will help you along the way - like scrubs and stethoscopes. However these basics will get you through the hard that is nursing school and set you up for success as you chase that RN dream!
- Sarah @ New Thing Nurse
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About the Author - Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL is an educator, speaker, blogger and owner of New Thing Nurse, a professional and academic coaching company for the nursing world. New Thing Nurse is organized to provide support and guidance to aspiring nurses, newly graduated nurses, and veteran RNs looking to make a change in their life.
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