Helpful Items to Purchase for Nursing School

by bitter_betsy bitter_betsy, BSN Member Nurse Student

Specializes in Emergency / Disaster. Has 3 years experience.

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I just finished the 1st semester of my BSN program, and I'm gearing up for level 2. For what it's worth, here are my specific recommendations for basic products that have been suggested, as well as some suggestions you may not have heard yet that work for me.

The Basics

  • The Ackley Nursing Diagnosis Handbook that you linked to is required text at my school. I think it's fantastic. It's very easy to navigate & reference. I use it all the time, and occasionally thumb through it at my leisure.
  • Stethoscope. Even the cheapest Littman scopes are great. Have it engraved or purchase a stethoscope tag or charm to personalize for easy identification.
  • Lots of pen lights. Peers will borrow these & you will lose them. Amazon has several multi-packs in nice color combos.
  • Digital Recorder with expandable MicroSD storage or phone app (I like Smart Recorder). Just make sure you have plenty of space on your phone & a charger with you!
  • Planner. Any planner that you will use. My only recommendation is that you use it.
  • Watch with second hand. My Casio is cute, waterproof, has a decent-sized face, and holds up well to handwashes & alcohol swabs.
  • Organization system that works best for you. Get organized now, while you can. A head start on this will only serve you well. Whether that be a large binder with dividers, a small binder for each class, or a 2-pocket, 3-prong folders for each class. Whatever system suits you best, set it up now, use it, and keep up on it.

You May Not Have Thought of:

  • Spare phone charger for your backpack. I use my phone for keeping in touch during the school day, coordinating study groups & recreation with peers, Quizlet flashcards before exams, recording lectures, and Nursing Central app during clinicals. I always have a charger.
  • Nursing Central is an app & web resource that was included in our tuition. I'm unsure of the cost, but it's been invaluable for access to Davis's Drug Guide, Davis's Labs and Diagnostics, and resources for diseases/disorders, assessment, etc.
  • Stethoscope Case. My Pod case is thin, has a handle, and fits a ton of stuff! I use it for my pen lights, scissors, scope, med cards, pens, notepad, and watch. I never worry that I'm forgetting something for lab or clinicals.
  • Bookstand! I love my 15"x10". I never would've thought of this, but it was suggested to me and I'll never go back. Also comes in handy while referencing my book & computer screen simultaneously. This is if you do hard copy texts. I use hard copies for reading (LOTS of reading!) and ebooks for reference lookup & review.
  • Laser Printer. I got this Ricoh laser printer on sale at Adorama for $75. I set SlickDeals to alert me to printer deals until I found this 1. I love it! I refill the toner (not often!) with cheap Amazon refill kits. You will be printing assignments, syllabi, care plans, drug cards, study guides, etc. Laser printers are lightening fast, superb quality, and hold tons of paper.
  • 3-hole punch & staplers for all the paper you'll be printing! Get a mini stapler for your backpack. Heads up: your peers will need to borrow it all the time!
  • Possibly a haircut. Seriously. Or at least a quick, go-to style that works for you in clinicals. I've always had long hair, but braids & buns are heavy over a long clinical shift! I cut mine to single-length, just past the shoulders. It's plenty long for a quick, simple pony that will not fall into food or feces while bending over during clinicals!
  • Amazon Prime. 6 mos. free, then $49/yr. for students! I already had Prime, but it's been so useful in nursing school. School supplies, paper goods, toiletries, dog food? No need to run to the store during precious study time!
  • Freeze food! I love my FoodSaver (cheaper models available!), but I hear reusable plastic freezer/microwave-safe containers work great too. Double your dinner recipes & freeze 1/2 for quick meals. Omelets baked in a muffin pan are also great for on-the-go breakfasts!
  • Slowcooker. Prep ingredients the night before, toss in in the morning, and come home to a hot meal. Nursing students love their InstantPots too, which are pressure cookers & much faster. I want one!

My strongest recommendation is to figure out how you will organize & simplify your life now. It's about to become a lot more complicated & stressful. Whether that means a no-fuss hairstyle, freezer meals, or just sticking to a planner & binder system, create that new habit or system now, and make it realistic. Good luck!



Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 3 years experience. 31 Posts

Cheap watch, comfortable shoes, clipboard (the folding nurse one is great), lots of pens and pencils, some sharpies, highlighters, lots of paper. Some good shears, a good stethoscope, drug guide (hard Copy or on your phone/tablet if allowed).

Everyone has their favorites, so do some research. I prefer cheap watches, if it breaks or gets covered in some body fluids, I don't worry about the $25 I spend on a new one.

Good luck!!

HalfBoiled, BSN, RN

1 Article; 186 Posts

Saunders NCLEX review guide.

Has literally everything, and straight to the point.

REALLY HELPS with care plans

Apple-Core, ASN, BSN, RN

Has 3 years experience. 1,016 Posts

With regard to your books, I would suggest sniffing around on eBay and buying ones that are used and even the previous edition.....saves a fortune. I have done this for years throughout school and never once has it been an issue to not have the most up-to-date edition.

I second everything else: pen-light, decent binder, tons of pens, decent and rugged backpack, knee-high compression socks, solid and comfy shoes, cheap plastic watch with second hand, stethoscope, clipboard.


AngelKissed857, BSN, RN

Specializes in Nephrology Home Therapies, Wound Care, Foot Care.. 436 Posts

Inexpensive water resistant watch with a second hand and glow in the dark numbers- a stopwatch function would be a bonus. There most comfortable shoes imaginable that comply with your as school dress code. BTW, spent under $40. for my watch on Amazon, it's a man's watch with metal band.

Rionoir, ADN, RN

Specializes in Mental Health. 638 Posts

We were required to buy this (along with an ipad) for our program:

Nursing Centralâ„¢ from Unbound Medicine

I use it constantly at clinicals. It has a nursing diagnosis handbook, as well as davis's drug guide, and some other things.



455 Posts

my fav items are my voice recorder (get two if you have extra classes like pharm so that you can keep it all separated better), and get one that has a noise reduction feature and a way to slow down the recording, i like my sony px333 i think it is.

Get you a black and white toner printer that can scan copies also. if you buy a color printer, you will be out of ink every time you need a late night sunday printout for mondays meeting.

For clinicals, I like my little spiral bound book called lab notes, and med surg notes, along with betty ackleys careplan/diagnosis book.

I like my flash drive that is made like a key that fits on my keychain, so that you'll always have it handy, and you wont run off and leave it in the pc at school since its also your car keys.

acer laptop, 17 inch and home internet access.

get your own 02sat monitor off ebay and a basic thermometer from dollar general.

snacks in your backpack and car.

numbers of class mates and teachers in your phone.

learn to do care plans and nursing diagnosis

good luck.

MiladyMalarkey, ASN, BSN

Specializes in Neuro. Has 3 years experience. 519 Posts

Besides all the gear & nursing diagnosis book, I would have told myself to buy some sort of electrolyte and pharmacology study guide/flash cards/chart. Would've saved me some time.



12 Posts

- Rolling backpack. This has seriously saved my back. I have all my books in electronic format on my ipad but i would try to carry my laptop and other supplies. One day i came home and i needed to take 2 Advils because my back was so sore. Thats when i decided to get a rolling backpack.

- tablet/iPad. Ot completely necessary and if you dont have one dont worry about it. But if you have one go ahead and bring it to school. Try to get as many of your text books in electronic format as possible.

- compression socks, good quality sneakers, and shoe inserts for your specific needs. Im flat footed so my foot strikes the ground all wrong leading to knee and hip pain and decreased tokerance to walking. I went to a running store and stood on one of those machines go get my foot scanned and got a shoe insert that will help balance my foot. My foot feels so much better.

-a pack of comouter paper. Leave it in your locker or car for quick access.

- planner. Every semester i get all my syllabuses and put due dates in my planner for the whole semester. Each class is a specific color for quick reference.

- highlighters. Now i bought a pack that comes in different colors but my eyes gravitate towards the yellow kind so thats what i use to emphasis important info.

- loose leaf paper, binder, dividers.

HarleyGrandma, ADN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency. Has 4 years experience. 151 Posts

Along with all the great suggestions above I would highly recommend, "Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Exam" book! It has an online portion with over 2000 questions too. I've studied with that in my last semester, and it has really helped me grasp the overall concepts (pulling it all together).

Nursing school is a process, it will test and challenge you in ways you won't expect - but it can be done and you can learn a lot!

All the best


Silver_Rik, ASN, RN

Specializes in Perioperative / RN Circulator. Has 2 years experience. 197 Posts

I'm glad someone finally mentioned a glow in the dark watch (though maybe others assumed it was implied.) Not in Clinical, but at work we start taking vitals at 0400 - pts appreciate not having the lights turned up. Some people have evening clinicals

A pair of bandage scissors can come in handy and will make you popular among hospital staff and classmates (though I can't carry them at work)