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  • 30 January 2019
  • 14 min read

Top nursing school essentials

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Claire is in her final year of university as a student nurse. In this video she offers advice about what essential things you need for nursing school!

Play video: Claire offers her advice on the top essential things you need for nursing school!

Hi everyone and welcome back to another vlog!

As you can hear I'm not very well, I've got a bit of a sore throat so I'm really sorry I hope you can bear with it!

So today's vlog is gonna be your top essential needs for starting University as a student nurse.

If you're here because you're thinking of going to nursing school, then look at Lottie's vlog on how to get into nursing school, for some valuable tips on the qualifications and experience you need!

Stationery and note taking

Now the very first thing you are going to need is stationery, depending on what sort of person you are.

This is the sort of person I am - I have stationary upon stationery upon stationery!

That's only some of it as well, the rest in my bag that I take to university but I just love stationery, I love writing in different colours, I love doing diagrams, I love doing pictures, I love doing doodles.

It all helps with my revision and my memory and all of that jazz so I love to use like a huge variety of different stationery, different techniques to help me revise.

But if you don't like all the colours and things literally just a BIC pen and paper, that's fine too.

Along with the stationery get yourself a pad, if you prefer just having scraps of paper that's fine that's your way of learning, your way of writing things down so just do that.

I prefer to have one of these and it's just amazing, it's got different sections so I put different modules in each section.

This is my new one for starting today, third and final year just in case you didn't already know!

So I've just literally started to write my first module in the first bit but these are really handy to separate everything, separate all of your notes and keep them all in one place.

This was actually from B&Ms and it's really cheap, have a look and Wilkinson's as well because I know they do really cheap ones of these, not too sure how much, well around the three pound mark.

Or if you just want some paper just get a note pad of paper.

I know I had my last lot of just plain paper that I bought I think it was like 80p or 99p, something from Wilkinson's or other supermarkets are available.

It's really dirt cheap, we are on a student budget so we need to save money.

Some people like to use a dictaphone or you can get a voice recording app on your phone, it's completely free to record the lessons and do your notes later or listen back to it later if you don't want to sit and write in lectures, that's fine too just whichever way you like to do it.

See Chloe's video for an in depth guide on the best way to take notes, so when it comes to revision you've got the best resources available to you - check out how to study and prepare for nursing exams.

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Invest in a diary

Next tip is to get yourself a diary. It's fine if you want to use your phone calendar to put things into your phone calendar so you've got it all on you at all times.

I really like to keep a diary with all of my plans in so I can write my work commitments, I can write my bank shifts, I can write my placement hours, I can write every lecture, any extracurricular activities, everything goes in this so I know where I'm at and what I'm doing.

It's the best way to stay organised.

One of the top tips for starting nursing is to stay organised.

Literally prioritise everything, organise your life just be on the ball and you're going to be amazing.

Play video: Claire talks about what she thinks her career will be like as a nurse!


A really really common question I get asked a lot which I’ve seen posted on different Facebook groups, different Twitter posts, things like that is ‘what books do I need for university?’

I'm just going to put out a small disclaimer here as always, depending on what university you are at they might expect different things from you, but just from my own experiences and a couple of other universities they don't necessarily expect you to buy books but they do give you reading lists and suggestions of books that you can buy to help you with revision, assignments things like that.

Personally I'm not a book person.

I haven't picked up one single physiology book apart from this one this I've got. There are only three books that I've read throughout my first two years.

There are the only three books I've read because for me anatomy of physiology I prefer to go over my lecture plans.

I revise from the Khan Academy on YouTube which is fantastic, it makes it really simple and easy to understand.

But again with caution with that they do sometimes go a little bit too in-depth and you don't need that extra in-depth and they might use different words.

Just be careful with that but I love the Khan Academy, honestly they are the best things to learn physiology from I find, and they've also got a website that you can use.

They have online quizzes and things like that - but back to the books!

So this one for medications.

It's got the physiology of how the medication works in the body in this book.

I absolutely love it.

Go on eBay, go on Amazon, get a discount.

Do not buy this completely brand-new because it is quite expensive.

I think I got this for £8 off eBay but it's well worth the money.

Next, a freebie. I love freebies.

I if I can get something cheap or free, we are students I've just said this.

We need to get all the discounts we can so if you walk into your local pharmacy or any pharmacy across the city firstly tell them that you're a student nurse and ask them if they’ve got any old BNF they don't use anymore.

The BNF is your Bible of medications that you will use 100%.

Any clinical area you work in as a nurse you will need the BNF.

This isn't even an option, you will need it.

I prefer to have the book, I love having the book but you can also download the free app onto your mobile device for free on the BNF app.

You can access it anywhere you want, any clinical setting but just on the side of caution about getting your phone out when you're out on placement because there's some strict rules about using your mobile phone.

If you're really desperate to look something up make sure it's okay with your mentor and you say - listen, this is what I'm doing I'm just looking this up on the BNF app - and they shouldn't have a problem with that but just be cautious with that.

But you can download it on your phone and you're gonna need the book possibly if you prefer reading from books.

My next book, this is not a necessity but I absolutely adore this book, it's the Student Nurses Guide to Successful Reflection and I'm a little bit biased because this is actually one of our own lecturers at universities book.

But she's fantastic and the way this book is set out, it's just incredible if you struggle with reflection like I did at the start.

This book is going to help you.

There's different little tasks inside for you to do and you just go and work along the tasks.

It’s really really helpful and it's got amazing quotes and things inside the book.

It's really cute, it's just a really simple, easy to understand, really broken-down book on reflection, how to do a real reflection so that's really really helped me because in our nursing jobs we have to reflect.

It's not even an option it's mandatory.

It's an NMC requirement.

As part of the rehabilitation you have to write reflections so you're going to need some sort of reflection tool but it is 100% worth it, have a look on Amazon for it is fantastic.

But if you don't want to spend money because we're students, we need our money, we need our pennies, we don't get paid for this - have a look just have a Google on different reflection tools.

There's loads of online stuff step-by-step guides on how to reflect and different tools that you can use to help you reflect.

You don't really need to buy a book, you can access these things online so save your money where you can.

Play video: Claire shares her five favourite experiences from her time as a student nurse.

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I am obsessed with backpacks. I love backpacks, they're great for placement, great for University. I have got four backpacks that I rotate.

So my main backpack just for placements is this one because it's absolutely massive, because you're gonna need to put your uniform in there because you can't wear your uniform traveling to and from placement, you have to get changed at placement.

So I need a backpack that’s massive enough to fit in my uniform, to fit in all of the food. It's also got a little pouch if you want to take a laptop anywhere to put your placement documents, things like that to keep them safe.

This is one of my favourites, I've got this from Costco it was like £10, it was a bargain but this is the best bag I have literally ever bought. It's fantastic it's the biggest it’s the best.

My other backpacks are just a slightly smaller but I use them for university just to put my pens and paper, lunch things like that.

But whichever bag you choose just make sure it's comfortable, make sure it fits all your things in make sure it's practical.

Buy a fob watch

My next item for Student Nursing is get yourself a fob watch.

This you will need, this a hundred percent mandatory.

You need this! They're essential in your nursing job.

This is going to be needed when you go out and you're doing blood pressures, you're counting respiratory rates, you're counting the pulse rate.

This fob watch is preferable, they like the rubber ones because they're washable and these you can get online really really cheap.

Have a look on eBay, have a look on Amazon they're like a couple of quid. They're really cheap!

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Get yourself a notepad

Next one is get yourself a notepad.

This is actually my uni notepad but I use this to keep everything in.

I've even made some little flashcards, I put them in there because as you go along your mentor is going to be telling you things or other nurses or the doctors, consultants healthcare assistants, they're gonna be giving you all of this information and it's really good just to jot things down.

I also put my medications in there because throughout university you'll be given a set amount of medications to learn, so I literally just write all of my medications in here as well.

I tend to keep the front for medications and then the back for any information and advice. Just fantastic!

It's really good to look back on and just read up on your notes or if you forget something then it was really good to just have those notes in there.

Play video: Chloe talks about what a typical day in the life of a student nurse looks like!

Get some ugly, yet comfy shoes

Well on the subject of placements you need comfy shoes.

You need the ugliest, the baddest, the horriblest looking shoes and you have to wear them.

They have to be leather, they have to cover your whole foot.

They can't be like dolly shoes with gaps but they're gonna be need to be wipeable because you're gonna get body fluids on them.

You're gonna get blood, you're gonna get pee, you're gonna get vomit, you can get all sorts on these shoes so you're gonna want to be able to wipe them.

These are the ones I prefer and actually quite a lot of students prefer these.

These are from Clark's they're called the Un Loop and these are just the comfiest things I've ever worn.

I can't believe I didn't get them sooner.

I got these in second year and these were the best things I ever bought.

I treated myself because they are a bit pricey.

If you go into the regular shop I think they're £60 but please please please, any advice that you take from this, go to the factory outlet don't go to the standard store because these are like half the price.

I got these for £35 I think in the factory outlet!

Save your money, please do that!

But also some students have commented saying that they don't like wearing these, that they're uncomfortable, they just they can't adjust to them and they go for the sketchers but it's up to you.

Just go out there try on shoes.

Don't look for fashionable, look for the ugliest, safest, cleanest, comfiest shoes that you can find.

But either way you're on your feet for twelve and a half hours, you are going to need comfy shoes.

A manual blood pressure set

Another thing that I have bought - I can't actually find it because I moved houses and there's some things that are still packed away - is a manual blood pressure set.

I got this really really cheap on Amazon it was £5 because as a nurse you're gonna have to do manual blood pressure.

So now on the wards there you've got those electric machines and things like that but there will be times that you might have to use a manual blood pressure.

I know in our very first OSCE we are tested on manual blood pressure so it's really good to have that at home to just practice on people.

Practice on your friends, your family, your animals if you want but it just really helps build your confidence with manual blood pressure because I know some people do struggle to find the pulse and things when they're doing it so it's really good to have, that but again you don't 100% need that.

That's just something I wanted to practice at home because I loved it and I love doing manual blood pressure.

There'll be things at your university to help you practice that so don't go spend the money that you don't have.

It's not a necessity it's just something that I prefer to have and it really helped me with my manual blood pressure.

Hand cream is a life saver!!

And last but not least when you're out on placement, your hands from washing it every single day all day, every day are gonna get very very dry, very very sore so just have a really good hand cream in your bag, a small one that can go in your pocket.

It's always good as well but just have that really good hand cream because your hands do get dry, they do get sore.

You're gonna be using alcohol gel, you're gonna be washing your hands every single time you see a patient every time you see them.

That is a really big thing because you have to look after yourself and you have to look after your hands.

For me personally I love Lush. Lush is my favourite and they do this really good coconut scrub with a coconut hand cream and it just makes your hands feel amazing, like they've just been in a spa - it's fantastic!

Another one is the hemp cream from The Body Shop.

I don't like the smell of that one and it does make your hands a little bit greasy so when I use that one sometimes I use it before I wash my hands so then I'll use it and then I wash my hands and then it kind of has the same effect but it just stops it from getting so greasy.

But either way whichever hand cream you choose just make sure it's a good one for your hands!

So that's it, that is my top essentials you're gonna need as a nursing student.

If you are just starting University, if you've already just started University a massive good luck to you because this is going to be the best journey of your life. 

Check out Chloe's vlog on her student nurse survival guide for essential advice on getting through your degree!

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About the author

I am a Registered Nurse with over 12 years healthcare experience including: elderly care, orthopaedics, sexual health / family planning, qualified GP nurse, transgender healthcare and now in my new role as an assistant lecturer (as of Nov 2022). I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs to help anyone considering their nursing career and to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

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