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16 Must-Have Items Every New Nurse Needs in Their Bag

16 Must-Have Items Every New Nurse Needs in Their Bag

As a nurse who is new to the scene, it is important to explore and invest in a mindfully designed medical bag that is comfortable to tote around, fashionable and highly functional — but what about what’s inside the bag?

Achieving a balance of nursing tools, nursing supplies, personal supplies, and everyday necessities is essential as a new nurse. So before heading off to your first long and busy shift, make sure you remain prepared by packing your bag right.

Hair Accessories

As a new nurse, nothing is worse than having the knowledge, skills, and ability to do the task at hand and having something like a strand of hair stand in the way of displaying that. Wearing your hair up for 12 hours at a time can become severely uncomfortable and even painful, so it is important to choose hair ties and scrunchies, non-slip headbands, bobby pins, and other hair accessories explicitly designed with this in mind.


As a nurse, you will frequently find yourself up close and personal with patients, families, and colleagues alike. Fresh breath is necessary if you want to be heard and respected and create a good impression for yourself and your place of practice. While you don’t want to be chomping on a piece of gum during your shift, you can chew gum during breaks or after a meal to freshen your breath before returning to work.


Nurses are notorious for not taking proper lunch breaks, and although they know better, it is often unavoidable due to heavy workloads and undeniable dedication. That being said, a lack of food on top of what is already an exhausting shift can make you tired, irritable and leave you unable to concentrate. Maintain your blood sugar and remain prepared for those inevitable busy days when you may not get a break by packing pocket-sized, easy-to-access snacks.


Nurses are encouraged (and often find it necessary) to scrub, sanitize and wipe their hands down constantly throughout the day to avoid spreading unwanted contaminants. A nurse’s skin will likely remain left feeling dry and even damaged, so having access to lotion is essential.


Carrying extra socks is always a good idea and something your mother would be proud of you for. Compression socks in particular, have the added bonus of preventing the pain and swelling that can accompany poor blood supply to the legs from long shifts on your feet.


Click pens in particular, as opposed to ball-point pens with caps, are the pen of choice for most nurses as they are less likely to get lost, thanks to their ability to attach to pockets, clipboards, the sides of your bag and any other places that you may need to keep them.


Nursing school teaches you to be particular and meticulous regarding notes. Whether you’re still in class, beginning your practical placements or entering the field as a newly and fully certified nurse, high volumes of complex information will always remain thrown your way and it is important to make sure that you always have a notebook ready for it.

Water Bottle

Water is essential in maintaining good health, and though nurses know and encourage this when it comes to their patients, busy shifts with heavy workloads can make this a challenge to accomplish for themselves. Consider keeping a stylish water bottle in your bag to keep your drink cool and inspire you to take control of your own self-care needs.

Water Bottle


The right pair of scrubs can significantly impact your presentation and performance as a nurse. Unfortunately, you are inevitably going to come into contact with some unknown or unwanted contaminants throughout a shift that will leave their mark on your scrubs. Not only do you likely not want to stew in these contaminants for the rest of your shift, but the scrubs that you wear can express your personal brand as a nurse. Hopefully, you won’t need to use them often, but when you do, you’ll be thankful to have packed a spare set of scrubs in your bag.

Smartphone and Charger

Easily packed with nursing fundamentals such as calculator and flashlight features, medical dictionaries and resources and, when in doubt, the ability to “Google it,” the smartphone or tablet is easily the most valuable digital all-in-one tool for today’s healthcare professionals — but not if the devices are dead. So make sure to remember a charger.

Nursing Scissors

Bandage scissors, or bandage forceps, generally feature an angled tip and a blunt bottom blade. This helps to cut medical gauze, dressings and bandages without unnecessary fuss or gouging the skin — which is worth the space in your bag!

Medical Tape

Whether it be for dressing an emergency wound on the spot or for when a patient accidentally pulls out their IV and you need to quickly correct it, the medical tape is an important thing to carry as a nurse. Between micropore paper tapes, transpore plastic tapes and durable cloth tapes, the options are endless and you would be wise to have at least one.

Alcohol Pads

Alcohol pads or wipes are home first aid kits and hospitals’ mainstay. Used to clean wounds, prepare the skin for any significant procedures or to wipe down and sterilize equipment between each use, alcohol pads remain utilized constantly. Having more than a few of these stashed in your bag is always a good idea. You will likely need them often, so restock your stash frequently!

Empty (Usable) Bag

Nursing can be a messy job. When you inevitably get unwanted contaminants soaking through your scrubs or into your shoes. You will want to not only get out of the contaminated pieces as soon as possible, but secure them somewhere separate from the rest of your belongings. Keeping an empty plastic bag handy is a completely overlooked idea that you will be completely thankful you did.


The stethoscope is one of the most important tools of the trade for patient assessments. As a result, the tool has seen drastic developments and advancements that have given way to stethoscopes that are functional, fashionable and boast an incredible array of features for nurses to choose from.


While a straightforward tool, the penlight is important and frequently used. Penlights remain required for assessments such as checking pupil reactions and assessing dark areas of the body like inside the ears and throat. Having a penlight accessible can also be beneficial for subtle and necessary light during night shifts — for instance, in a patient’s room at night when you are trying to fill out a chart and want to avoid waking them by turning on the room lights.


What’s in Your Bag?

Although the most common essentials to carry, the 16 must-haves listed above are by no means exclusive, with many nurses filling their nursing bags and backpacks far beyond this point. This proves that nurses remain always prepared and willing to do their duty without delay or exception. By striking the right balance between nursing tools, nursing supplies, resources and personal items, you can be as prepared as any seasoned nurse with the help of your bag.

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