What Do Nurses Carry To Work?

During the pandemic, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that many medical professionals found Knack Packs to be the best backpack for their jobs. In particular, we heard from nurses who told us that they thought a Knack Pack is the best backpack for a nurse due to its separate work and clothing compartments which allows them to keep scrubs and other clothes away from the tools they use to do their job.

essentials for nurses

As we heard from more and more nurses, we became increasingly fascinated by how they use their Knack Packs and what they carry in them. So this week, we thought we'd share some of the "must-haves" in nurse bags and the things they look for in a backpack for nurses.

Table of contents:

  1. What do nurses carry to work?
  2. Nurses tell us what they pack in their nurse bag
  3. How Knack Bags is working with nurses 

What Do Nurses Carry To Work?

During every shift, nurses have to carry their work gear, plus all the extras that they need to stay healthy and comfortable. And because most nurse shifts are on the longer end of the workday spectrum - they typically fall between 8-12 hours - nurses tend to pack a lot of stuff into their bags. 

Speaking with Knackpacking-nurses, we found a lot of common work-related items that they always bring on a shift and fit well into a Knack Pack’s everyday compartment.

What tools nurses use:

  • A stethoscope: Nurses like to bring the right stethoscope for their department. For example, ICU nurses need cardiology stethoscopes, while NICU nurses need smaller stethoscopes. 
  • Trauma shears: Disposable scissors provided by the hospital can’t be relied on to quickly and safely cut clothing, so many nurses choose to bring their own high-quality shears or scissors.  
  • Colored pens: Nurses always need colored pens for documentation during different times of the day. And because pens are so easily lost or misplaced, they need plenty of backups. 
  • Sharpies: Nurses like to carry extra Sharpies or permanent markers for labeling patient items, dating or marking dressings, etc. 
  • Hemostat: Nurses need a hemostat for clamping IV’s and unscrewing IV clamps, but hemostats can also be used for crushing pills. 
  • uNight Light: Did you know that nurses actually can’t see in the dark? uNight Lights let nurses work in the dark rooms of sleeping patients, without having to wake up the sleeping patients. 


what tools nurses need to bring to work

But what else do nurses carry in their backpack? In January, we partnered with Lumify Hub - an awesome site for the best nurse products - for a nurse backpack giveaway. To enter, Lumify users told us some of the most essential items (beyond their work gear) that they bring with them to survive their shift.

Must-have nurse items:

  • Caffeine
  • Water
  • As many snacks as possible
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Ibuprofen
  • Chapstick
  • Lotion

What’s in my nurse work bag?

To learn more about what else nurses bring with them to work, we sat down with Jenniffere, a nurse and co-founder of Lumify Hub, and Michael, an RN in Rhode Island.

What are some must-have items that every nurse should have for a shift?

Jenniffere: “For me hands down a water bottle, Advil, study material (I feel like I was always studying for SOMETHING). An extra scrub top or t-shirt! When you work in the NICU, baby spit up is an occupational hazard! Having something to change into is a MUST. Extra pens, we lose them, we steal them, they stop working on us, so always extra pens! Sometimes taking a break isn't an option, so throwing in a protein bar or peanut butter in your bag for a quick bite is smart. Other must-haves in my bag are, gum, phone charger, wallet, keys, my uNight Light and case, and lately my laptop!”

Michael: “My must-haves are food, water bottle, badge, extra uniforms (because you never know), pens, markers, gum/candy, K-cup”

Do you have any advice for how you store these must-have items in your nurse bag?

Jenniffere: “In my pre-Knack Bag days I used to put my clothes or shoes in a plastic bag and cram it into my bag, lol These days I get a designated section of my Knack bag to keep my clothes separated! So grateful for that. I keep my badge and uNight Light case in the front pocket. I LOVE having a space to attach the carabiner of my uNight Light case!  Pre Knack days I would throw my pens in a pocket and dig for them. So glad that I have actual pockets for my pens now, it's those details that make such a difference. Also a win is having a spot for my laptop!”

Michael: “I would pack shoes on the bottom, fold the uniform and put it in laptop area, then just utilize the many pockets that the Knack Pack has!”

What are some important features that you look for in a nurse backpack?

Jenniffere: “POCKETS! Us healthcare pros love our pockets. Our scrub pants have about 20 different pockets and I love how many pockets my Knack Pack has! Having an area that can keep my "dirty" stuff apart from my clean things is key for me! Being able to have my bag easily cleaned!”

Michael: “The most important features are weather resistance, multiple pockets and compartments. A strong zipper! Laptop/iPad compartment, and I love that the Knack Pack is expandable! Makes it so much more useful for everyday at work and for travel!”

Learn more from nurses: Check out this interview with adventurous nomadic travel nurses Lindsay and Chase of @wereoutnabout.

how to pack a nurse bag for work

How Knack Bags is working with nurses

Nurses are essential to a healthy community, so we’ve done a number of partnerships, giveaways, and collaborations with nurses, nurse hubs, and nurse staffing agencies. Here are a few of our favorite initiatives:

  • At the start of the pandemic, we hosted a nominate-a-nurse giveaway in which we heard lots of truly inspiring stories about hard working nurses. Check out some of our favorite nominations here.
  • We partnered with Kamana Health to give away a handful of Knack Packs at TravCon, the healthcare travel conference. Travel nurses love that Knack Packs can be used for their travels, and at work.
  • We recently launched on the Lumify Hub app, so that Knack Packs will be more accessible and discoverable to nurses. 
  • During the peak of the Omicron wave, we donated a whole bunch of Knack Packs to Medical ICU nurses. 


donation of nurse work bags to medical ICU

If you need a good gift for a nurse, check out this article.

Are you a nurse? Comment below to let us know what you pack in your work bag.

Share Article

Learn More About Knack

Laptop & Travel Backpack In One Bag