What You Need to Have in Your Nursing Bag

Tools for nurses

Johnny Magnusson

Like any other profession, nursing requires tools that are important when it comes to providing high-quality nursing care. For each specialty, the tools for nurses might be a little bit different. However, for new nurses working in their first patient care positions, there are a few common tools for nurses that no nurse should be without! Here are my top 5 tools for nurses.


It never fails that I am looking for a pen. I might need to jot down some vital signs or make a note to myself about something a patient might need. Not to mention charting is a big part of nursing. While many facilities have moved to computer charting, nurses may still need to make written progress notes, sign consent forms or discharge paperwork, or otherwise make a written record of the care provided to patients.  Because of this, having pens available is a necessity. You can never have too many!

Notebook or Scratch Pad

In the beginning of my nursing career, I always carried a scratch pad in my pocket. I used it to make to-do lists for myself or to write down the priority of my nursing tasks. I would take notes about patient assessments (not using any patient identifiers…remember to always protect patient privacy!) or record the times that I was providing care. These lists and notes would help me organize my days (and nights) and make my charting more complete and comprehensive because I wasn’t relying on memory. Having a scratch pad or small notebook in your pocket can be a valuable tool for keeping yourself organized.

Scissors and Tape

My nursing pockets always contained a set of bandage scissors and a roll of skin-friendly tape. This was particularly useful when completing patient assessments and checking IV lines. Sometimes they would need tape removed and reapplied. Having scissors also came in useful when I needed to open packaging!

Reference Materials

Especially as a new nurse, you will have questions. I would always carry my chosen reference materials to work. I had a drug reference guide so that I could review medications. I also carried a pocket assessment guide in order to look up any special assessments that I was unfamiliar with. Unlike when I was a new nurse, nurses just getting started today have smartphones! There are many apps built using nursing reference materials that save you the hassle of carrying around books. Investigate the apps that are most aligned with what you need in your work area and download them so you always have a place to seek the information you need.

Assessment Tools

Last on my list, but certainly not least, is to make sure you have your assessment tools with you at all times. As mentioned above, each specialty may require specific tools for nurses working that area but the basic assessment tools should always be part of your nursing bag. Having a stethoscope and a watch with a second hand are absolute musts for taking vital signs and auscultating heart, lung, and bowel sounds. Check with the nurses on your unit to see what other assessment tools are must-haves for working on your new unit.

As you get started in your new career, there will be so much to remember. Having your bag packed with the tools for nurses that make your life easier and your nursing care better will go a long way in helping you get comfortable in your new role as a nurse. Of course there are many other tools for nurses, but this list is a good place to start as you pack your nursing bag for your first nursing job!