And now, My sweet awesome readers.
I present part 2 of my freaking boss series *Estelle's Guide to Nursing School*
Okay. I’ll admit it. I am a total nerd (as if ya’ll didn’t already know that). When I was younger, my favorite thing about “back to school”-time was shopping for new school supplies. Nothing says “New semester” like the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and new notebook paper.
Well the fun doesn’t have to stop now that you are all grown up and in nursing school.
These are some of the things that I think you might need (or want) for the journey.
The bag – I use a great teal plaid Jansport bookbag that I have had for a few years now. It has just enough pockets to keep me organized but not too many that I am constantly losing shit.
I know that some of my classmates swear by rolling bookbags but I have never really gotten use to them. I am always afraid that I will knock people over with it or something and then I would forever be known as the crazy nursing student who took out half a dozen people with a rolling booksack while rushing to class one morning.
The scrubs – Okay. I may be in the minority here but I do not like wearing scrubs. Maybe it is because the college mandates the kind we can wear (gives us product codes and everything…not just the color) and they are fucking horrible. Like really, really bad. The most unfashionable, uncomfortable, unflattering things you can imagine. But whatever. They are required and ya gotta wear them. I wear camisoles and tanktops under mine not only for comfort but also, if something is spilt on the scrub top, it doesn’t automatically come in contact with my skin.
Also, if you are so unfortunate that your program requires you to wear white scrubs, choose your underwear wisely. White panties tend to show through white scrubs. Play it safe and stick with nude-colored undergarments. Try to avoid the hot pink thongs or anything with cherries on it (Guys, I'm talking to you too. I know that those silk boxers with the kisses on them that say "Hot Stuff" are just the bee's knees but trust me, you can totally see them through your scrub pants and when all the 50-something-year-old nurses start calling you "Hot Stuff,"...they are quickly going to lose their charm).
While we are on the subject of underwear, some schools have the students perform “mock” physical exams on each other that before they are ever allowed to touch a patient. You may or may not have to take your cloth off for this and don a terribly fashionable hospital gown. If your school does this, invest in some cute underwear. I suggest boy-short style panties and camis for modesty's sake (or go commando...either way works for me). [There is no reason to have this freak you out. But I am fairly sure if the idea of your classmates seeing you in various states of undress in the practice lab makes you totally uncomfortable, you can opt out of it.]
Comfortable, white shoes, preferably all leather – Yes. I know. Leather is cruel and save the whales and free love or whatever but guess what? It is also cleanable. Faux-leather is acceptable.
Make sure the shoe is closed-toe and closed-heel. And none of those vent-hole things like you see with CROCs. Trust me on this. When the shit hits the fan (or the floor), the last thing you want is for any of it to get on your socks and feet.
A word of advice about shoes: Hospitals are really dirty places. Hospital floors are especially dirty. After I got out of clinical for the day, I would usually take off my shoes before I got into the car (I kept a pair of ballet flats there for this purpose) and spray them down with Lysol or use those Lysol wipes to keep the nasty bugs at bay. This is also why, when I got home, before I touched anyone, I stripped off the scrubs and changed cloths. After particularly rough days, I have done this in the car on the way home.
The stethoscope – You don’t have to buy the most expensive one, but do some research and try to buy a quality ‘scope. I bought the “My First Stethoscope”-model that the uniform store suggested and it works just fine. I plan on upgrading at graduation.
So unless you KNOW that you love cardiac stuff and want to go into cardiovascular nursing, there is no reason to buy the $200+ “SUPER-AMAZING/EVERY-OTHER-STETHOSCOPE-SUCKS-MAJOR-BALLS/CARDIOLOGY”-stethoscope…unless your parents/significant other/Sugar daddy (momma?) want to get you that for your birthday or Christmas. Just make sure they spring for the engraving also, because SAEOSSMBC-‘scopes have the tendency to walk off when left on the unit.
3-in-1 printer/scanner/copier – It’s great to have one of these. The printer is a necessity. But the scanner and copier just make life so much easier on you. If you hand-write your notes and want to share them with a classmate who was absent from class one day (because you are just such a nice person…or a complete sucker for a sob story), it is a great option to be able to just scanner the notes and email them.
Spare ink cartridges and extra printer paper – Odds are, if your luck is anything like mine, your printer will run out of ink at 1am the morning that your 15 page paper on renal failure is due. This will be a total inconvenience but not a catastrophe. You’ll drive to WalMart were there will be only 1 employee working in the whole store and he only speaks Turkish. After using various hand gestures and drawing pictures for the kind of ink you need (because of course none is on the shelf), he will inform you that they don’t have any of that kind of ink. And they won’t have any of that kind ever again…because they discontinued it…just to fuck with your world.
Don’t let that happen to you. Buy extra ink. And paper.
Jump drive/Jump stick/ USB drive – Essential. Gotta have one. I type all my careplans and medication sheets up and this makes it easy to carry it all with me. I keep it on my key ring so that there is less of a chance I will leave it plugged into a computer in one of the tech labs at the college.
Digital voice recorder – I’m not an audio learner but I know that these are pretty helpful for some of my classmates. They were able to download the lectures they recorded to their computers and put them on their mp3 players so that they could listen to them in the park while they walked the dog or in the car on the way to lecture.
Just make sure you have permission from your professor to record the lecture. Not all of them allow it.
Pocket protector/pocket organizer – Yes. I am a total dorkasaurous. But this little thing is the bomb for keeping all my pens, pencils, penlight, alcohol swabs and sterile caps nice and organized in one of my 500 pockets. Plus, the one time that I didn’t use it, I ended up ruining a scrub top with a leaky pen.
Watch with a second hand that tells military time (24-hour) – Calculating. IV drip rates. Measuring respiratory and pulse rate. Counting down the hours until you can go home and get some sleep. You’ll need one of these. Also, all documentation in the hospital is done by military time and this will make it a little easier.
Pen light – Okay. I have a confession to make. Ever since I have been in nursing school, I have had an unhealthy obsession with penlights. Seriously. I fucking love those things. And I buy them buy the half-dozen because I like having one in my bookbag, one in my purse, one in my clinical bag, etc. Don’t bother with the cheap ones, though. Buy ones that you can replace the battery.
Drug guide – I have the Pearson’s 2010 guide which is pretty good. Make sure whatever book you get come with an online version also. This is usually accessed by a code in the book. That way, you can copy and paste medication information onto your med-sheets.
Nursing Care Plan guide - I like Ackley. And for the love of God, stay away from anything Carpenito. I am sure she is a lovely woman but her nursing diagnosis books are simply useless.
A planner – Whether paper or PDA, keeping organized and on top of due dates, clinical times, and exam schedules is very important in nursing school (well…any kind of school). I swear by my Uncalender. It is has tons of space and has both weekly and monthly views. You fill in all the dates so there is no wasted months if you don’t buy it in January or August.
Highlighters – I am a highlighter whore. I have them in every color and I use them all. Color coding is the shit.
Black, clicky pens – All paper documenting is done in blue or black ink. If the pens are the clicky kind, you don’t have to keep track of tops.
EDIT: According to one of my favorite male nurses, Nurse XY, "The black clicky pens should be ball point, not roller point or gel tips. The ball points don't smear on lab labels and write on tegaderms and tape."
#2 pencils – Ugh. Exams. Notes. Blah.
Basic calculator – Drug calculation exams will be the bane of your existence. Most schools require you to make a 100% on it to pass and only give one or two retakes. Scientific and cell phone calculators are not allowed usually.
Index cards – I buy these at Sam’s or Costco by the metric ton. Flashcards are a godsend and one of my favorite ways to study with a group.
Binder rings – I use them to keep track of my flashcards.
Binder clips – Way better than paperclips.
3-Hole punch – Most of my instructors post their powerpoints online. I always print them and carry them to class to add my own notes. A 3hole punch makes it easy to add to a binder.
Binders – I also have 2 for every class . I keep all my current notes in a 1-inch that I care back and forth with me to lecture. After I take the exam that those notes cover, I transfer them to a 3-inch binder so that all my old notes are in one place. This way, I can keep track of all of them when it is time to start reviewing for finals.
I am super picky about these. They have to be durable (Avery is my favorite brand) and the rings have to be attached to the back cover of the binder (not the inner spine). This way, when I close it, my notes don’t get caught and cause the back pages to curl under. (I hate that).
Sheet lifters – These are basically a triangular piece of plastic that goes behind all the sheets in a binder and helps prevent page curling. Seriously. That shit drive me crazy.
Caffeine of your choice – Coffee. Tea. Red Bull. No-Doz. Whatever keeps you alert.
Travel coffee thermos – To be able to carry whatever keeps you alert back and forth to lecture.
Lap top – This isn’t completely necessary if you have a desk top computer at home, but it is really helpful to be able to take it to the library or the coffee shop.
Lotion – You’ll be washing your hands a lot. My first semester, I had a huge problem with dry hands. Thank goodness I found Vaseline Intensive Rescue Healing hand Cream. It isn’t greasy like all the other stuff I tried and it has a really nice subtle, clean smell (The night I met WhatsHisName, I was wearing just this and no perfume. He leaned it and whispered in my ear, “You smell really good.” All I could think was “Really? Because I think smell like I have spent the whole day on a hospital oncology unit”). So yeah. The added benefit is that this stuff attracts 30-something-year old married guys. Use with caution.
Mints – Nobody likes to have someone hovering over them who has funky breathe. Since we weren’t allowed to chew gum, this was the next best thing. If you get really strong mints (like Altoids), they have the added benefit that they overwhelm your senses and make unpleasant smells more bearable.
Your nursing ID badge and holder – Not only is this part of your clinical uniform but if security at your hospital is tight (especially for psych rotations) they might not let you in without it.
Lip balm – You might be so busy that you don’t drink enough water and end up getting dry or chapped lips. Burt’s Bees(original) or EOS(Lemon drop or Honeysuckle Honeydew) are my personal favorites.
Hair clips – My school requires women (I saw women because men are not allowed to have hair that falls below their ears) with long hair to have it pulled back and up off the collar. It also might help to keep a few hair ties in your clinical kit for those mornings that you are rushed and can’t do anything with it (that would be most mornings).
Bleach pen – For stains on your white shoes
Tide pen – For any non-gross stuff that gets on your scrubs or lab coat (like ink or some of your lunch).
Storage clipboard – Great for clinical rotations to keep your papers from getting lost.
Kleenex – If you are anything like me, during the first few weeks of school, it never fails that I get a cold for being around so many other people. Also there will be tears and some crying. Get a few travel packs and keep one in your bookbag and one in your clinical bag.
Scissors – Gotta have ‘em. Plus, they are impossible to find on the hospital units.
Hemostats/Kelly Clamps – Honestly, I have never used these but they are required for my program. Normally, they are used to clamp foley catheter tubing to allow the urine to collect so that you can take a fresh sample from the port. I have found that curling the tubing on the bed pretty much does the same thing.
Also note that if you carry these around with you on a regular basis, people are going to think you are a pothead rather than a nursing student. The bloodshot eyes from lack of sleep will not help your case.
Hand sanitizer – I’ve said it before. Hospitals are gross. And this may shock some of ya’ll but they are also full of sick people. Sick people who have germs. And you’ll be touching them. Sanitizer your hands. I like Germ-X Germ Blaster in Gnarly Green Apple. It is better than the stuff that my sites had in their dispensers. Plus it smells like apple martinis (who doesn’t like those?).
Your turn, readers.
Any other suggestions on back to school supplies specific to the nursing student?