Page reviewed and updated: August 2023
To have a successful shift, having the right apparel and tools for the job is essential! Whether you are a new graduate or a seasoned professional, we’ll look at some tools of the trade to help you get your job done with ease. As always, keep your organization’s policies in mind when making purchases to make sure they are appropriate and meet requirements.
Many organizations have moved to color schemes to help patients and healthcare professionals differentiate who is providing care (for example, registered nurses in navy blue, certified nursing aides in turquoise, etc.). Many nurses enjoy having scrub tops and pants with multiple pockets to hold the essentials (pen, notes, unit phone, tape, alcohol wipes, etc.). There are a variety of styles, brands, and price points out there to choose from as well.
Speaking of pockets, a lab coat offers even more of them! A lab coat also adds a touch of distinction to your professional ensemble and can often be embroidered with your name and nursing specialty.
While many nurses depend on their cell phone for the time and may use it as a stopwatch, many still prefer a wristwatch to keep track of their time and to use for patient assessments. Be certain that your watch has a second hand; it’s also a benefit if you can set it to military time. There are some watches that can be attached to your scrub top or affixed to your stethoscope as well.
I used to carry at least two to three bags to work with all my personal and professional paraphernalia. Purchasing a travel bag was a great solution for me and could be just the ticket for you as well. These bags offer many pockets but are small and lightweight, and don’t weigh you down on your travels. For nurses who travel in their job (for example, home care or travel nurses), a bag like this is calling your name!
There are a wide variety of stethoscopes on the market. Your organization or nursing school may provide you with guidelines on what type you will need for your patient assessments. I personally have always purchased Littmann® stethoscopes and have found them to be the best quality money can buy. (Read Shopping for Stethoscopes – Do You Hear What I Hear?)
A penlight is a great tool to have on hand. Whether you need to check pupils or look in the patient’s ears or throat, it is always an essential item to have available.
Shoes and Compression Socks
Your choice of foot apparel is very important. Shoes and socks should be comfortable and durable. Remember, your choice of shoe can affect your whole body, not just your feet! (Read Shoe Shopping – Put your best foot forward!)
Pulse Oximeters (Pulse Ox)
A pulse oximeter is a small electronic device, usually placed over a patient’s nailbed, that measures the saturation of oxygen carried in the red blood cells. While your organization may have these available (or a respiratory therapist should have one), check with your organization’s policy first to see if you are permitted to use your own personal pulse ox device.
These soft, silicone hammers can help you accurately elicit muscle stretch reflexes, superficial or cutaneous reflexes, and plantar and abdominal reflexes. If you care for patients who need frequent neurologic assessments, this would be a great tool for you.
If you work with telemetry monitors on your unit, this tool will come in handy. The calipers allow you to accurately measure EKG tracing intervals.
Keeping valuable information – such as laboratory values or procedural steps – right in your pocket is key! Hint: Lippincott NursingCenter.com has over 40 quick, evidence-based Nursing Pocket Cards to help you make accurate and appropriate care decisions for your patients. You can download them FREE.
Ready to start shopping?
Here are some places to start!
- Careismatic Brands is a leader in the design, manufacturing and distribution of medical apparel under the Cherokee, Allheart, Dickies, Healing Hands, Medelita, Med Couture, Silverts, HeartSoul, and Infinity brands, and distributes medical instruments and medical accessories under 3M Littmann, MDF Medical Devices and other brands.
- Nurse Mates offers scrub tops, scrub pants and jackets for women. They also offer watches, travel bags, compression socks, and shoes.
- Moxie Scrubs is a direct-to-consumer brand for nurses; they offer scrub tops, pants, and jackets.
- Wink Scrubs has a line of scrubs to fit any style.
- Scrubs & Beyond offers a variety of scrub tops, scrub pants, jackets, and lab coats for men and women in different styles and fits (from petite to maternity and short to tall). They also offer shoes, socks, lab coats, and medical supplies (including stethoscopes, stethoscope parts, pulse oximeters, neurological hammers, clipboards, penlights, and scissors).
- All Heart sells scrub tops, scrub pants, jackets, and lab coats for men and women in a multitude of colors, patterns, and sizes. Other items include shoes, compression socks, and medical devices (including forceps, clamps, ECG calipers, hammers, penlights, protective eyewear, and scissors).
- Uniform Advantage offers a diverse range of scrub tops, scrub pants, jackets, and lab coats for men and women. They also offer shoes, socks, compression socks, clogs, and medical supplies (including nursing bags, stethoscopes, watches, penlights, pulse oximeters, protective eyewear, ECG calipers, and surgical caps).
- The Uniform Outlet offers scrub tops, scrub pants, lab coats and jackets for women and men. Other items include socks, compression socks, clogs, and medical devices (including hammers, penlights, and stethoscopes).
- Amazon sells nursing apparel and tools as well.
- Scrubin Uniforms sells scrub tops, scrub pants, lab coats, clogs and jackets for women and men. Clip boards, stethoscopes, scissors, penlights, watches, socks, and compression socks are available too.
Overall, there are some great resources out there to help you provide quality patient care. Did your favorite resources and items make the list? Be sure to share your insider knowledge of the best places to shop for nursing apparel and any other must-have nursing tools of the trade.