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What's in your nurse survival kit?

"Fortune favors the prepared," claimed the 19th-century French chemist Louis Pasteur. That's certainly true for the 21st-century nurse. One hallmark of the well-prepared nurse is a carefully-curated survival kit to help make the job go smoother and ensure your patients receive optimal care. 

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The "must haves" can vary from nurse to nurse or job to job, but veteran nurses have some great recommendations to start with. Just don't expect everything to fit neatly into a backpack or locker. 

Here are five tried and true components for a nurse's daily survival kit, from nurses who learned the hard way so you won't have to:

Healthy snacks

Gloria Giordano King, MSN, RN, may be manager of nursing programs at Piedmont Fayette now, but she remembers what it's like to work a 12 hour shift that's more like 13. "Even though nurses get breaks, many choose not to leave their patients if they are unstable and don't really get a meal. I always brought bottled water and nuts and fruit or other healthy snacks to eat on the run. They're critical for surviving as a nurse."

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Compression socks

Is it too strong to say the feet are the most important part of a nurse's anatomy? Vanderbilt Health ICU nurse Delaney McCann emphasizes how crucial it is for nurses to be able to walk and stand comfortably. "I would say a good pair of compression socks tops my list of survival items," she says. "Twelve hours is a long time to be walking or standing around when your feet and legs aren't comfortable."

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Well-made, suitable shoes

Atlanta-area cardiac nurse Patricia Dewer also emphasizes foot care on her podcast The Honest Nurse, which focuses on mentoring and on the first year of nursing in particular. "Get some good shoes," she says, and don't worry if they look hideous. "I did go through a period of time when I wore those clunky clogs and they did wonders for my knee and my back and my feet. So if you have a lot of problems in those areas, those shoes can be very helpful."

Now that she doesn't have joint issues, Dewer recommends really good running sneakers. "Because I run a lot," she said. "And I run a lot at work." And don't balk at the investment, Dewer advises. "It's okay to spend more than $100 on shoes that you're going to be wearing a while."

Inspiration for tough times

Amanda Moorhouse, a family nurse practitioner at East Tennessee State University, emphasizes emotional survival. "I would say that every nurse should keep some kind of scripture or inspirational quote on hand to be able to read. That is especially helpful in times of stress," she says.

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Cargo pockets

Most nurses are women, and contrary to fashion designer choices, women love pockets. A critical piece of everyday equipment is a function-over-fashion scrub set that includes cargo pockets for storage, according to McCann.

Plenty of rest

As for a nurse survival item that you won't take to work, McCann insists on investing in a good night's sleep. "The #1 thing that is helpful to me is a comfortable bed," she say. "Make sure you have a place you can sleep and get good sleep! I have a weighted blanket, nice sheets and a white noise machine for when I work night shift."

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