The 6 tools that will help you crush clinical and make life as a graduate nurse a heck of a lot easier…
Here is a compilation of what I consider to be the most important tools that you need in your clinical belt…as well as the specific ones I use in practice.
1) The most important tool by far…
(in my opinion) is your report sheet.
This is your brain during your shift, and is thereby your biggest asset during clinical (or your shift as a graduate nurse). A report sheet, for those that may not be familiar, is a sheet of paper that you use to write down all of the important info about your patient(s). It will help you organize your patient’s care and prevent you from forgetting vital information.
Here is an example that I created, which looks very similar to how I lay out my report sheet when caring for patients.
You should have one of these for every patient that you are caring for during your shift.
Always do things systematically, and start that habit NOW.
The beauty of a good report sheet is that it helps you do exactly that.
When I do a full assessment, I start at the top and move down >> neuro, respiratory, cardiac, GI, GU, endocrine, skin, etc. I also write down my information in this way, so that I greatly reduce the chance that I may forget something. Then, when I give report, I give it to the oncoming nurse in this systematic fashion as well. This ensures that I don’t forget vital information.
When you utilize a system like this, it is also very easy to see how the patient has progressed, or what things may have happened during the day that you need to pass along to the oncoming nurse.
There are many ways to do this. Here are two….
One way is to write report at the beginning of shift in one color and then use a different color throughout the day to add new information (for instance a blood sugar, a procedure that was done, if the patient received blood, etc.).
Alternatively, you could make lines following your baseline information received at the beginning of the shift, then you know that anything written after that line was new information gathered throughout the shift. This is especially helpful if the nurse that you received report from is the same one that will take over care of the patient when you leave. Then you have can easily update him/her with any new information.
2) Incredibly Comfortable Shoes
This is pretty obvious…or at least, it will be after your first 12-hour shift. As a nurse, you are on your feet all of the time. So, be smart about it and make the investment up front to buy high-quality tennis shoes that fit your feet really well. And then, you will most likely need to buy new shoes every 6 months or so (depending to some degree on whether or not you wear them outside of the hospital at all).
I typically use new balance shoes while working. I find that they support my feet really well. But, you definitely want to use whatever works best for you.
As a side note, I will say that you don’t ever want to break in a new pair of shoes at work. Being on your feet for 12+ hours in a new pair of shoes is MISERABLE. Break them in at home, or bring a second pair of shoes to change into midway through your shift.
3) Insoles for those comfy shoes
After you buy those comfy shoes, take it a step further and put legit insoles in them to make them even more comfortable. This is just an easy way to extend the life of your shoe and keep your feet happier, longer.
I have used these Powerstep insoles before and thought they were great. They take a day or two to get used to, but seriously make a great impact on they way your feet feel.
4) …not a sexy tool…but sooooo helpful
So…this is definitely something that people have made of fun of me for using, especially when I was doing it as a nurse in my 20’s… but any and all ridicule that I incurred is totally worth it for how much they helped my legs throughout the day.
Yes, I am talking about wearing compression socks. And, I am SO SERIOUS when I say that they truly make all of the difference after working 12, 13, 14 hours on your feet. I never used the thigh-high stockings, only the knee-highs. And you should use them too! Endure the teasing and save your legs.
A group of us that worked together would place a bulk order once a year or so, which meant that we got a significant discount. I can’t remember exactly which site we used, but you are looking for something akin to this.
5) Quality stethoscope
You definitely need a stethoscope to complete assessments, so buy a quality stethoscope with a diaphragm and a bell. I am a big fan of Littman stethoscopes. They are high quality and last a long time.
As a nursing student, and for a few years as a new nurse I used this stethoscope. It was awesome and lightweight, which is great when you have to carry it around all day, as I did then. The only reason that I got a new one is that my stethoscope conveniently (for someone else, not for me) found a new home around the neck of someone else.
Learn from my mistake and have your name engraved on your stethoscope. Sharpie will only last so long…and then the black smudge-print that was once your name is completely illegible and you will find yourself unsuccessfully trying to convince, I don’t know…say…a med student…that this is actually your stethoscope that he is wearing around his neck and that black smudge-print is actually your name.
Now, I have a Littman Cardiology III (with my name engraved on it!). No, I do not think it is necessary to upgrade this much, especially as a new nurse, and especially if you aren’t working in a cardiac unit. If memory serves, I got a really good deal on it when I purchased it, and I was also still mourning the loss of my previous stethoscope when I made this purchase…so, I may have gone a bit overboard. Nonetheless, I really do love this stethoscope and highly recommend it, especially if you work with cardiac patients.
6) Cheap watch
A cheap watch with a second hand is a great thing to have. Most monitors don’t show the seconds, and most hospital rooms now have digital clocks, which can make it hard to count respirations or slowly dole out your slow IV push meds.
I wouldn’t spend too much on a watch to wear to work, though, and here are two reasons why…
1) your wrists, and thereby your watch, are exposed to a lot of nasty things throughout the day…some things that you might feel even a good dousing of soap, or bleach, or gasoline can’t fix…and
2) I once had my watch-band rip in two (in the very center of the band) while moving a patient. It literally caught in the fold of a patient’s….how to put this delicately…fluffy midsection…and ripped in two.
No, I am not making that up.
No, I am not even sure how exactly it happened. But, it did.
So, my advice is to buy a relatively inexpensive, plastic watch with a second hand. I usually get mine from Walmart or Target and spend no more than $10-$15 on them. And be sure to get one with a plastic band. Having a fabric band get wet, and then sit on your wrist...wet...with all kinds of nastiness on it...all.day.long is super gross.
Other tools that can be helpful (especially if you work in the ED), but aren’t vital…
1) pen light
If you do buy a pen-light, DO NOT buy an LED pen-light. I’ve read research that states that it can take up to 10 minutes for your patient’s eyes to reset after having an LED pen light flashed in them. This means that you are not getting a truly accurate assessment, unless you are waiting 10 minutes between assessing each pupil – and you know you aren’t going to do that. Ever.
2) trauma shears
With the exception of maybe a handful of times, I have never really seen the need for trauma shears except for when I was working in the ED. Then, they came in handy all of the time.
So, that’s my list of need-to-have and nice-to-have clinical tools.
Hope you find it helpful!
*Looking for more clinical tips? Check out the Student Nurse Success Course located under courses on the home page, which gives you all of the information and resources you need to excel in clinical and have a leg up as a new nurse.