How Much Do I Need To Learn To Become A Nurse?

By Tessa Cooper

Published on August 26, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The world needs qualified, compassionate nurses. With the high demand comes high pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earn a $75,330 median annual income. In addition, the BLS projects the career to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029.

The nursing profession requires education and upfront investment. In this guide, we discuss the common expenses and financial challenges new nurses face. With the right preparation, these factors do not prevent people from success in this growing field.

Workplace Expenses

Nurses should familiarize themselves with all possible expenses. Knowing which expenses to track helps nurses save money through tax deductions. Just make sure to save your receipts for record-keeping purposes.

Keep in mind that some employers pay for nursing attire and simple supplies. Despite improving a nurse's workflow, specific tools might not qualify as necessary. For example, a smartwatch may make it easier to calculate a patient's pulse rate. Smartwatches can also help nurses stay on top of communication and their calendars. Yet, most hospitals do not offer free Apple watches to their nurses. Some items fall into the luxury items category and do not count as tax write-offs.

We divide the following sections between common nursing expense categories. This is not a definitive list. We encourage nurses to collaborate with their coworkers to learn about more potential expenses and tax write-offs.

Nursing Supplies

Nursing Attire

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Insufficient Funds

Unfortunately, workplaces may not receive enough funds to supply every nurse with clinical tools. Aside from insufficient funds, many nurses lack time to purchase resources. This can lead to unstocked supplies and a reduction in care quality.

For example, some nurses get assigned to too many patients due to a staffing shortage. Shortages may lead to a slower reaction time and reduced care quality. Unfortunately, experts believe a national nurse staffing shortage will continue into 2030. In fact, America needs 1.2 million new registered nurses to meet the demands by that year.

In the case of an unstocked supply closet, nurses can carry their own backup supplies in a fanny pack. But nurses should always communicate a supply shortage to supervisors. Nurses can then save their money for optional supplies that the employer does not provide. Supplies may include a penlight or compression socks.

Nurses should speak up for themselves and their patients if shortages become a pattern. As was the case with the coronavirus pandemic, even the best employers may not find enough nurses to meet current demands. We further discuss the pandemic's impact on workload and supplies in the next section.

The Pandemic's Impact on Nursing Supplies

The COVID-19 pandemic led to supply shortages in many industries, especially the nursing field.

Researchers found that nurses reported a new type of trauma during the pandemic from insufficient supplies. Purdue University gathered written responses from nurses about on-the-job trauma they experienced. Some nurses reported being so overworked that they were unable to eat or properly hydrate during their shifts. Many nurses wrote about a lack of protective gear, like masks and gloves. Most of the nurses said they are still recovering from this trauma.

With vaccines rolling out and new industry experience, nurses should remain hopeful and advocate for change. Joining an organization like the American Nurses Association can help nurses find resources and communicate needs on a national scale.

Interview With a Nurse

Alaina Ross is a licensed RN, BSN, with over 10 years of experience as a pre-op and PACU nurse. During her career, Alaina has worked several nursing jobs, including stints in San Diego, California, Sacramento, California, and Truckee, California. Caring for patients going into and recovering from surgery is her passion. Alaina earned her BSN from Roseman University of Health Sciences in Henderson, Nevada. When not working, Alaina loves traveling, yard sale hunting for treasures, and spending time with her family.

Q. What was your experience like preparing for your first year as a full-time nurse?

Getting ready to start your first full-time nursing job is stressful. You learn a lot in nursing school and clinicals, but nothing prepares you for the real thing. You have no idea what to expect and how to apply the skills and knowledge acquired during school. I found myself reading tons of books about how to be a successful nurse. But looking back, I'm not sure that was the best use of my time.

If I could rewind the clock, I would have started building a routine around yoga and meditation. Shifts are absolutely crazy. You need the right mindset for staying calm and positive while at work. I wish I had started practicing yoga and meditation before working — I think I would have been in a better headspace for that first year.

Once you start, it's totally trial by fire. You have to learn quickly. No matter how much you paid attention in nursing school and read extra books, there are always new things to learn. You need to learn your hospital's unique charting system and procedures, software, and shift assignments. The list goes on and on. You just need to be open-minded and prepare yourself for continued learning.

Q. What was the most important purchase you made as a new nurse?

This may sound silly, but the best purchase I made as a new nurse was a membership to my local yoga studio. Within just a month or two of starting work, I was a physical wreck. Your back is sore, your calves ache, and you just feel tired. Nursing is a taxing profession, plain and simple. Doing yoga on my days off helped me build stamina, strengthen my core, and prepare my body for long, hard shifts. You can buy nice Figs scrubs and Dansko clogs, but nothing better prepares your mind and body for work as a nurse than yoga.

Q. How much can a new nurse expect to spend on supplies (clothing, medical supplies, etc.) in their first year?

As a brand new nurse, I would plan on spending $1,000-$2,000 on supplies. You're going to need scrubs, clogs or other supportive shoes, stethoscopes, pens (and lots of them), and a bunch more things. The scrubs and shoes range widely in price, but in my opinion, this is something you should not skimp on. I recommend Figs scrubs and Dansko shoes. It's a large upfront investment, but you'll be happy you spent the money when you're not sore or chaffed after work.

Q. What expenses are nurses expected to take care of on their own, and how much can they rely on their workplace to provide?

It really depends on what hospital or clinic you work for. But by and large, at a bare minimum, nurses should plan on bringing their own scrubs, shoes, and lunch every day. Some hospitals provide scrubs, but they are usually low-quality and scratchy or don't fit well. That's why I always bring my own regardless of whether my employer offers scrubs. In addition, you're always on your own for footwear.

Some hospitals supply stethoscopes and other medical gear, but I use the same stethoscope I used in nursing school. I know it like the back of my hand and know it works well, so I continue to use it. Also, long gone are the days of free lunches at hospital cafeterias for nurses. Some hospitals I've worked for provide cheap, subsidized food for nurses. But, you will often need to bring or buy your lunch every day.

Q. What differences have you noticed in nurse expenses between hospitals and clinics you've worked in?

How much you need to spend on supplies totally depends on the hospital or clinic. I've worked for several organizations, and some are awesome in terms of supplying their nurses, while others are awful. Some hospitals provide all the scrubs and supplies you need, while others give you a yearly stipend. Also, some hospitals make you bring your own supplies. This is something you should research and ask during interviews before you start your first job. If your potential employer provides nothing in the way of supplies, I would plan on spending $1,000 or more to gear up.

Q. What should new nurses expect in their first week?

There is no doubt that the first week at your first full-time job is the hardest. You have to learn your new employer's shift rotations, charting procedures, and software. You also need to learn patient care protocols and about a million other things that are unique to your employer. As you get more experienced and bounce around between hospitals, this gets easier. But, the first job is the hardest.

You will shadow an experienced staff nurse and can ask all the questions you want, but it's still on you to retain everything you learn. I'd highly recommend taking a small notebook and making notes as you go. Then in the evening after you're off, review your notes and memorize all your checklist items and procedures. The more prepared you are, the easier each day will get.

New Nurse Questions

Q. How should nurses prepare for their first year?

Nurses should reach out to supportive, experienced nurses and ask them for preparation tips. New nurses can also make a backup supplies tool kit.

Q. Which nurse expenses are tax deductible?

Gear reserved solely for work use often counts as a tax write-off. Gear can include a stethoscope, work shoes, and scrubs.

Q. How does a lack of resources affect patient care?

Overworked nurses may experience trouble attending to patients quickly. Supply shortages also make it hard for nurses to provide adequate care.

Q. What does every new nurse need?

Every nurse can benefit from comfortable shoes and backup supplies. New nurses should spend a few weeks on the job before investing in excessive supplies. Waiting helps nurses identify essential expenses.

Portrait of Tessa Cooper

Tessa Cooper

Tessa Cooper is a freelance writer and editor who regularly contributes to international and regional publications focused on education and lifestyle topics. She earned a bachelor's in public relations from Missouri State University and is passionate about helping learners avoid high student loan debt while pursuing their dream major. Tessa loves writing about travel and food topics and is always planning her next meal or vacation.

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