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10 Must-Have Nurse Essentials for your Shift

10 Must-Have Nurse Essentials for your Shift

Whether you’re a brand new nurse, a seasoned veteran or work in a hospital - there are certain nursing items that are great to always have handy. These are things that will make your shift either easier or more enjoyable which can help you focus on what matters most - caring for your patients.


Some of the links below are affiliate links but we only recommend products we truly stand behind. 

1. Nursing Bag

Buy a nursing bag - which is basically any big bag that has a lot of pockets and compartments - that you use only for work. Having a dedicated work bag will make it way easier to never forgot to bring all the other essential items. It's also great as you won't have to empty out your bag after every shift. Plus if you’re running late you only have to remember to grab the one bag.

Make sure your bag has:

  • At least 3-4 pockets so it stays organized 
  • Lightweight so it’s not a pain to carry around 
  • A warranty in case it breaks within the first year.

Our recommendations:

This Stylish Shoulder Bag: Leather Nylon Shoulder Bag

This Backpack for healthcare workers: Doctor Backpack   

2. Travel Mug, Tupperware & Lunch Bag

Having a solid travel mug for your hot beverages and a lunch bag equipped with tupperware is a great way to stay organized and make sure you’re eating during your shifts.

Even if you don’t always have time to sit down and eat that sandwich, making sure you have snacks is a good way to always be eating so you’re staying mentally sharp. We’d recommend getting into the habit of pre-making your snacks and lunches so that they’re ready everyday before your shift. It’s best to find fitted tupperware that fits into your nursing bag so everything is still all together.

Some of our favourite snack/lunch ideas are:

Energy bars
Cut up carrots (with peanut butter)
Mixed Nuts
Small Sandwiches (eat a few at a time or here and there)

The Nerdy Nurse has a variety of yummy ideas for quick and easy packable lunches.

3. NotePad & Pens

Always make sure you have a notepad and pens (plural) in your bag. Even if you’re not a new nurse - making notes (for example discharge notes) to reference later on in your shift is a good way to keep organized.

You can also use it to write down instructions from your supervisor/or doctors so that you remember what to do at a later point.

Whatever the reason - keeping a notepad and pen handy (no matter how often you may use it) is a good idea for quickly referencing anything you past self wants your future self to remember!

Our favourite notepad for nursing notes is our simple lined notepad with 118 pages.


Check out our Nurse Avenue apparel store inspired and created for nurses off-duty. Designed for comfort, function and to take pride in being a nurse! 


4. Stethoscope with ID Pin

Of course you’re going to want to make sure you have your own Stethoscope. While there are many things to consider when choosing a stethoscope - the best thing is to always ask for recommendations from other nurses first.

Recently we asked for recommendations within our networking group and most people recommended the 3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope

The 3M classic III is great on cost and durability - as it’s made out of stainless steel which is better for conducting sound. If the 3M is outside of your budget then ask your colleagues what they’re using and if they’d recommend it.

Another good tip it to buy a ID pin with your name on it and hot glue it on (as shown in the video above) that way no one ‘mistakes’ it as their own as we all know stethoscopes can be victims to sticky fingers!

5. Nurse Grid

Nurse Grid is a cool app that allows you to add your work schedule for easy-referencing. A lot of nurses use it between one another so that you can see when your colleagues are working and easily switch shifts. Although it’s an American app you can still download it and use it for your personal scheduling needs which helps keep your google calendar clean for your personal life.

And speaking of apps, there’s actually a huge array of nursing apps to help make your job as a nurse easier - everything from studying for an exam or cross-referencing a specific drug to treat a patient. Whatever you’re looking for - there’s likely an app out there that offers it!

6. HydroJUG 

Whether you’re working the night shift or the day shift - staying hydrated is extremely important. By drinking 6-8 glasses of water it helps improve your physical performance, and boost your energy. Not only that - it can help you think clearer which is extremely important as a nurse.

Of course - this is not rocket-science and you know to drink lots of water - but are you? An easy way to make sure you’re drinking liquids during your shift is to get a HydroJug - which is simply a huge water bottle that keeps your water cool and holds the daily amount you’re recommended to have (which is 2L)!

We recommend getting a H20 Capsule HydroJug as it holds 2.2Ls of water and comes in a protective sleeve that doubles as storage (hold your phone, keys and cards). You also don’t have to lug this around everywhere you go but instead keep it in your nursing bag and use it to fill up a smaller glass to chug whenever you’re thirsty. That way you’re easily keeping track of how much water you drink and making sure you’re actually drinking it!

7. Running Shoes

Make sure you have a nice pair of comfortable running shoes. As we’re sure you probably already know this, we want to really emphasize this point by making sure you get yourself an extra pair of running shoes that you can turn to when your other shoes either break or you need to change up the support or give them a washing.

Washing your running shoes is extremely important since you’ll be sweating in them and they’ll pick up all the hospital grind. Having an extra pair will make it easier to do this more often since you won’t have to worry about them drying before your next shift. 

Always try to find a running shoe with ventilation and with extra soles that you can easily switch/clean or take out. The good thing about having a few different shoes and styles is that match them to your scrubs!

8. Apple Watch

If you’re looking for a reliable watch and want to treat yourself then we’d highly recommend investing in an apple watch. While it’s on the expensive side there’s a whole lot you can use it for both inside and outside of work.

For example, it’s great for counting respirations, timing and monitoring vitals and logging information quickly so you can chart it later. You can even use it to dictate notes when you’re in a hurry or aren’t hands-free.

You can also use it to track how many steps you take a day, and it’ll help reduce your phone time since you can see calls and texts directly on the screen which means you don’t have to constantly check your phone during shifts or be nervous if you’re waiting for a call. You can get updates without having to pull your phone out.

For an entire tutorial on how apple watches can help during shifts check out Hayley's apple watch hacks (tips start at 5:00) 

9. Fig Scrubs & Cherokee

If you haven’t gotten yourself some Fig Scrubs we recommend checking them out - they are comfortable, stretchy and typically have lots of big pocket space. Just by feeling good in your scrubs and being comfortable can help you do your job better as you won’t be worried about bending and reaching for things. Good scrubs are breathable, cleanable and stylish.

If Figs are above your current budget - a second best is Cherokee. While they run on the more affordable price they’re just as good as Figs in that they tend to have big pockets and are stretchy. Likewise, they come in many different cuts and colours so you can really shop around for the ones you feel the most comfortable in.

10. Oh shit, I almost Killed You

This book is great for anyone new to nursing and can help get you mentally get through your first few weeks working on the floor. You don’t need to read it front to back but instead if you’re having a hard day or need a pick-me-up you can choose the chapter that correlates best with your situation.

Chapters are short and easy to read and will help remind you that you’re human and not alone. Remember - do no harm - take no sh*t. 

Oh shit, I almost Killed you is part memoir - part how-to-guide. It will make you laugh and cry and shed some anxiety! It’s written by Sonja M. Schwartzbach (BSN, RN, CCRN) who’s a critical care nurse and blogger for the Huffington Post.

She swears that ‘no medical residents were harmed in the creation of this book!’


Grab a big bag and make sure you have all your nursing must-haves in it for every shift! It will make organization and shift planning that much easier.

We’d love to know what’s in your nursing bag? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter!

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