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What’s in your scrub pocket?

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What’s in your scrub pocket?

It probably depends where you work, but surely there are some essentials. Let’s take a deep dive into those 37 scrub pockets.

Undoubtedly, the one thing you can’t live without is a good pen (and a not-so-good pen). One to use and one to let other people use. A “clean” pen and a “dirty” pen, if you will. 

So what makes a great pen?

There are lots of personal preferences on this subject matter, but we can agree on a few things. Notably, it needs to write, and it needs to last. This leaves out the standard grey Bic stick pen with the cap. Honestly, can anyone use that pen?

Let’s talk about caps while we are at it. Most nurses prefer the click pen for obvious reasons (anyone ever lost a good scrub shirt over a rogue pen cap?). Some people prefer fat ink, and some prefer thin lines. This is usually based on if you write in cursive or in print and how messy your handwriting gets.

Smooth pens usually let you write faster and are perfect for cursive writers, while thin tip pens force you to write slower and are better for printers. If your handwriting is messy because you need to slow down, choose a thin pen with great ink. If your writing is legible, even at faster paces, you want a larger tip. It also needs lasting ink that doesn’t smear. This takes most gel pens out of the running. 

According to the New York Times, the Uni-ball Jetstream is one of the best pens out there. It’s smooth, comes in several sizes, and is almost smear-free. Best of all, it comes in a click option. If you need something that isn’t quite as smooth, try the Pilot Precise V5. Both are formidable options, but you won’t want to lend them out. Keep that Bic pen handy.

If you do a lot of writing on lab labels, it’s time to consider the chief of permanent solutions: the Sharpie. You need the ultra-fine point to do the job but just think of all the things you could label. 

Next up is scissors.  

For nurses, that means trauma shears or bandage shears. You can get away with the less powerful bandage shear version if you work on the floor, but if you are in critical care, spring for the trauma shears. 

Unless you are out in the field, you likely don’t need a super expensive pair (here’s looking at you, Raptor), but the freebie ones won’t cut it, at least for long. Maybe ask for an Xshears set next Christmas; you can cut right through the stocking and perhaps even rescue Santa out of those pants. 

Pocket professionals

It’s also never a bad idea to have a penlight. Bonus points if it actually works. The key here is paying enough for a good product but not getting something that will blind your patient.  This one gets rave reviews

Whatever you choose, warmer lights may be less abrasive to your patients. You don’t need a light over 40 lumens for pupil response; many medical pens are around 10 lumens. To put that in perspective, 80 lumens can temporarily blind your patient at night, and 100 will during the day. You don’t need to become a lumen expert, but the tactical light should stay in your car.

Finally, a good lip balm is a lifesaver; just don’t forget to take it out before washing your clothing. (If you already screwed that up, here’s how to fix it.) 

Now that your pockets are stacked, let’s touch on a couple of things you shouldn’t carry:

  • Tape- TJC says tape should be single-use now, plus those pocket fuzzies aren’t cute or sanitary.
  • Flushes- Technically, that’s a med. You might be ok carrying one or two around, but empty those pockets out before you leave. Follow your hospital policies on this one.
  • Meds- nope, nope, triple nope. It might be convenient, but it’s asking for trouble.
  • Food- the well-wrapped granola bar might be ok, but those skittles you put in a specimen bag are real questionable.  

Here at Capsol, we aren’t advocating for any one brand. The links in this article are just meant to be helpful; we don’t make money from them. We know whatever you use, those scrub pockets are loaded.

What do you keep in your pockets? Tell us about your chipmunk tendencies.

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN


Amanda is an ER nurse with 10 years of healthcare experience. She currently works as a nurse educator and as an adjunct professor for several schools. She also works as a freelance healthcare writer in her spare time. Amanda thinks the greatest thing about nursing is the endless possibilities and opportunities to learn. What have you learned today?


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