Stethoscope spilling out of a nurse bag full of essentials.

Ultimate Nurse Bag Essentials List

February 3, 2022

Working twelve-hour nursing shifts is not for the faint of heart; it can be physically and mentally exhausting. To help relieve this burden, having a well-packed nursing bag can make all the difference. Honestly, some nurses may look like modern-day Mary Poppins with all the essentials they store in their work bags! The items you carry in your nursing bag can be broken down into two categories, nurse bag essentials and extras.

Nurse Bag Essentials Checklist

  1. Stethoscope: An absolute must. Every nurse needs to have their own stethoscope, and the truly prepared keep a backup stethoscope or pediatric stethoscope.
  1. Reference pocketbooks: A reference pocketbook for your specialty is useful whether you’re a new grad or a seasoned nurse. You never know when you'll have a unique experience or need additional information.  
  1. Patient report sheets: These are great for keeping your patient’s vital information at your fingertips. Some nurses create their own based on their needs, and others print templates offline for their nurse kit bag.
  1. Hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizer is an absolute necessity in your nurse utility bag, especially if you can find one with moisturizers in it. You must be prepared to clean your hands any place, any time. This also applies to non-nurses because of COVID-19.
  1. Lotion: With all of the handwashing, hand sanitizer, and glove donning and doffing, the skin on your hands can get dry, itchy, and painful. Keep a good moisturizing cream or lotion as a nurse bag essential to relieve your dry skin.  
  1. Lip balm: Wearing masks and personal protective equipment for 12-hour shifts can cause dry skin and lips under the mask. Keep your favorite lip balm in your pocket or nurse bag to keep your lips from cracking and bleeding.  
  1. Extra pens: Pens, there is a special relationship between nurses and their pens. It is vital to have pens for labeling and writing notes on your report sheets. Remember to pack multiple pens in your bag and keep your favorite pen close at all times.
  1. Planner/pocket calendar: A pocket calendar or small planner can be helpful when you switch shifts with a co-worker or pick up extra hours. Depending on your facility’s phone policy, you could also use a digital calendar to save space.
  1. Medical tape: Having medical tape handy is helpful during your shift for labeling IV lines, securing IV lines, and pretty much any other improvised solution.  
  1. Watch with a second hand: Trying to survive a twelve-hour shift without a watch with a second hand can be tricky. Obtaining vitals without one is almost impossible unless there are clocks with second hands in your patient rooms. Save yourself the hassle and keep a watch in your bag.  
  1. Feminine hygiene products: Twelve hours is far too long to go without fresh hygiene products; make sure you are prepared and have an extra stash in your bag. This is a must-have nurse bag essential that many of us have run short on one too many times.
Nurse bag essentials checklist with icons.

Extras & Thank You Goodie Bag Ideas

These are some extras to include in your nurse kit bag as a nice quality of life and emergency stash for when things get stressful. They also serve as the perfect small gifts to include in thank you goodie bags for nurses.

  1. Trauma shears: Having a pair of trauma shears is essential for nurses in the emergency department, but come in handy for nurses who are working on the floor as well.  
  1. Over-the-counter meds (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, pink bismuth, loperamide): You never know when a sudden headache or stomachache will hit. Be prepared so you don’t have to suffer until you get home.  
  1. Gum: This is a nice extra, especially after your lunch break (if you have time for one). No one wants to rebreathe their tuna sandwich for the next few hours. Plus this is handy for the midnight shifts when you are getting drowsy. Remember to avoid chewing gum when working with patients or snapping/popping your gum in general.  
  1. Umbrella: The weather can be unpredictable. Keep an umbrella available in your nurse utility bag so weather surprises don’t catch you off guard.
  1. Snacks: Need I say more? As nurses know, lunch breaks don’t always happen. Have some easy, quick snacks like nuts or dried fruit to stave off hunger pangs.
  1. Water: As nurses, coffee and caffeinated drinks tend to be our drink of choice, but water is crucial for nurses to drink, too! Just don’t keep it at the nurses' station.
  1. Nail file/nail trimmers: Having a broken, jagged nail is not only annoying, it can be dangerous if you unintentionally snag your nail on your patient. Broken nails are also at a higher risk of skin infection.  
  1. Hair ties/headbands: There is nothing worse than having hair fall in your face during your shift or your hair tie snapping and having to use a regular rubber band. Stock a few headbands and hair ties in your nurse utility bag just in case you need one or one of your colleagues needs to pull their hair back.

Nurses are notorious for being ready for anything and are always willing to care for and help others. Caring for yourselves is another story, though. If you're well-stocked with nursing bag essentials and are ready for your workday, it can ease the pain of those lengthy and draining 12-hour shifts.  

How Advantis Medical Can Support You

Advantis Medical puts travel nurses and allied health first. Whether you need a high paying position, help with taxes, need someone to talk to, or are looking for tips, we’ve got you covered. Our Nurse Care Team always has your best interests in mind and are your biggest advocates.  

Join our travel nursing and allied health community in our AdvantisConnect job portal. We aren’t just here to connect you with jobs around the USA, we’re here to be your companions throughout your career.  

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