What are the items you need most for nursing school?

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a professional freelance writer with almost a decade of experience as a Registered Nurse. She's worked in both hospitals and nursing homes as a med-surg, geriatric and transplant nurse. Her national publication credits include Parents, RN, Ladies' Home Journal, Nursing Spectrum, Pregnancy and Journal of Christian Nursing.

An open mind, a good ear and a tender heart.

You probably wanted to know what supplies you need for nursing school, right? We'll get to that, but first, you should know that your Number One, Most Important Nursing Tool of all is you. Like so many careers, nursing is an increasingly high-tech field, but no app can ever replace the personal touch.

Now, on to the equipment! You'll need:

  • A computer and Internet connection
  • A good pair of shoes
  • A high-quality stethoscope
  • A clipboard and/or notepad
  • Basic medical dictionary and drug guide - or apps on a PDA

Back in the day, computer skills were optional for nurses. Now, computers are everywhere, so if you don't feel comfortable finding information on the 'Net, ask someone to get you up to snuff before you start class. (Of course, if you were truly computer illiterate, you probably wouldn't be reading this column!) You'll want a personal computer for papers and such, but you'll also be expected to use the computers at various clinical sites to record things like health histories and nurses notes.

Nurses spend a lot of time on their feet, so invest in a pair of supportive white tennis shoes. Nursing uniform catalogs are a good place to start, but don't feel hemmed in by "nurse shoes." A pair of white running shoes can work just as well.

A stethoscope is an essential tool for a nurse. You'll use it to assess heart, lung and bowel sounds, as well as to check blood pressures. While you can buy a stethoscope for less than $10, it's better to buy a mid-range model. You don't need one that costs $150, but the acoustics really are better on higher-quality stethoscopes, so buy the best you can afford. Ideally, look for one with an interchangeable adult and pediatric bell.

You'll also need something to keep track of your many notes. Nurses have used folded paper towels for years, but if you want something a little more classy, get a cheap plastic clipboard and some loose-leaf paper. That way, you'll be able to record vital signs and assessment info in style. (Some nurses record basic nursing facts and formulas, such as normal lab values, on their clipboards as well.)

Finally, you'll need reference materials. For years, a good drug guide and medical dictionary were the mainstay of a nurse's library. Today, many nurses are opting for portable apps that display the same information on their cell phone or PDA. The choice is yours!