Standard Gear and Equipment for Nurses

A nursing career has options.   There are many different career options under the umbrella of nursing.  Each nursing job can vary vastly, but all of them have similarities and rise from a core of common nursing knowledge.  Most, if not all nurses, utilize standard gear and equipment in the execution of their duties.

Patient outcomes are improved when a nurse is organized and has ready access to appropriate gear and equipment. Each nurse needs to assemble the correct equipment to perform the duties of her nursing job.

Different types of nursing may require different equipment, but there are common items that each nurse should own. The following are some of the essential items necessary every nurse should possess. 



Scrubs are most often the standard uniform in nursing.  Some facilities will require you to have a white lab coat as well for cleanliness and comfort reasons. There are tons of amazing scrub sets available on the market, but it is always a good idea to find out what your facility requirements are before purchasing scrub sets.  It pays to purchase higher quality scrubs that fit well and last.

These are the clothes that you will be living a good portion of your life in, so make certain that they are comfortable and easy to clean. Cheap uniforms may be ill-fitting and uncomfortable, and a nurse’s job is often long and complicated enough without the added discomfort of ill-fitting clothes.

A nurse needs lots of pockets for bandage scissors, pens, notepads, and a plethora of other stashed items.  As far as the scrub or lab jacket goes, a jacket can be essential when working on a cooler unit.  A sweater is not a practical idea as all work clothes should be designated as work clothes and easily cleaned.  A sweater is multi-purpose, and it is unlikely that it is washed daily between shifts.

Hospitals are full of germs on the cleanest of days.  Could you imagine seeing someone shopping at the grocery store handling fruit in their scrubs after a long shift at the hospital during flu season?

Nursing Shoes

In the old days, the head nurse would inspect the nurse’s shoes to make certain that they were pristine and white.  Standards have relaxed somewhat since then, but the standard of having appropriate and safe footwear has not.

Well-fitting and comfortable shoes are essential for safety, comfort, and cleanliness. A nurse should have a designated pair of safe puncture proof shoes that are only worn in the work setting to avoid cross-contamination to home or other areas.

Always check with your facility policy regarding the type and color of shoes.  A nurse can be on her feet for 12 hours a day, and this places a strain on her back and legs.  Good nursing shoes are a must for comfort, safety, and hygiene.


Your patient’s body tells stories by the sounds that it makes, and the nurse can help hear that story by listening through a stethoscope.

The best stethoscope depends on the nurse’s preference, the patient condition, and the specialty practice.  But in general, a basic beginner stethoscope frequently recommended for nursing students is the Littman Lightweight II S.E. by 3M if the instructor does not specifically recommend one.

A high-quality stethoscope in one of the most important pieces of equipment for any nurse.  There is a big difference between what you can hear using a cheap stethoscope and a quality stethoscope.  The nurse uses her stethoscope daily for patient assessment of heart, lung, and bowel sounds.


Medical Bag/Tote

A designated medical bag or tote such as one used in home health care in highly recommended as a place to store and carry your equipment in an organized and clean manner.

Tossing your equipment in any carryall can lead to disorganization, damage, and contamination.   The material should be easy to clean to prevent contamination.


Medical Handbook, Nursing Drug References, Lab Values Manual (Current Editions)

Reference books and pocket guides provide invaluable on the go information that helps guide them to optimal outcome and care based on best practices.  Medical Handbooks and lab manuals can be kept in the nursing bag for reference after a nurse has washed her hands.

Laminated pockets guides related to a specific area of expertise are good ideas as they can be wiped clean.  Everything that is carried in your pocket from room to room throughout the course of a clinical day is a potential source of cross-contamination.

Pen Light

Pen lights are important to assess pupil dilation and also to visual the back of a patient’s throat or look at a wound more closely that is difficult to see.  Whatever the use, it is important to clean them with alcohol between each patient use.

Smart Phone or PDA

This is a tough one.  In this era of surging technology, smart phones and sometimes tablets have become used more frequently as tools of reference and communication.  The risk for contamination and cross-contamination is high.  This is particularly true if the nurse is using her personal phone in the work environment.

Nurses are advised to study and follow their facilities procedures for cell phone and tablet use for best practices for use and cleaning.

Wristwatch with second hand

A great and reliable wristwatch with a sweeping second hand is a non-negotiable tool in nursing.  A nurse must have hands free access to timing to measure pulse and respirations.

A wristwatch also is important is helping the nurse organize her time because good time management is a must to be able to complete all the duties required in a day’s work.

Pen – black or blue

Most facilities have specific ink color requirements for charting.  Some require blue ink on legal forms.  Facilities may specify what type of ink color.  Most will not allow sharpies or anything that may smear.  Remember that the goal of any communication is to communicate so written communication must be clear and legible.

Clean Bandage Scissors

It’s a slippery slope to start using your clean bandage scissors to cut off dirty dressings.  These should be designated to cut clean bandages or tape for dressings and not to remove contaminated dressings.  Bandage scissors should be cleaned after each use.

Blood Pressure Cuff

It is best to have a manual blood pressure cuff with pediatric, adult, and large adult cuffs in your nursing bag as the wrong cuff size can cause incorrect blood pressure readings.  Manual blood pressure cuffs are more accurate.  As with all other equipment, the blood pressure cuff should be cleaned between patients and before being placed back in the bag.



Many facilities are now latex free as there are more and more latex allergies.  All nurses should carry the correct size of gloves in their bags and pockets while working.  Facilities often stock gloves for their employees, but it is a good idea for the nurse to have her own supply of appropriately fitting gloves.

Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is never a complete replacement for good handwashing technique in contamination situations, but it is an essential tool to breaking the chain of infection until the nurse can wash her hands.  A nurse should always have access to quality hand-sanitizer.

Pulse Oximeter

Pulse oximeters are now available in very portable and affordable sizes, and this can be an important tool in assessing a patient’s oxygenation status.   Again, it is important to clean it between uses, store it carefully, and always have spare batteries.

Disposable Wound Measurement Tape

Disposable wound measurement tapes in inexpensive and are invaluable for accurately measuring wounds.  Disposable is preferable to a tape measure to reduce the risk of contamination.

Hand Cream

Nurses wash their hands.  A lot.  With all that frequent handwashing and friction comes chafed skin.  Open skin is a portal for infection so nurse’s need to lubricate and moisturize their hands frequently.  A good quality skin cream is an essential tool for any nurse.

Alcohol Wipes

The importance of having these readily accessible cannot be underestimated.  Alcohol wipes can disinfect items in a pinch and have multiple uses.


A nurse’s career can take many paths, but all start with a dedication to the foundational principle of providing excellent patient care.  The right gear and equipment can do much to help organize and ease the chaos and intensity of a nurse’s job.

The above list is a starting point for the assembly necessary items for a nurse’s chosen specialty.  The care of the equipment and the dedication to keeping it clean is as important as the quality of the equipment itself.