19 Must-have items for medical students

This post may contain affiliate links, click here to learn more.

Are you pumped up and ready to get started with med school, but unsure if you have everything you need? Then this is the article for you. I remember stressing about this when I was about to start.

First of all, relax. The truth is that you only have to get a few “medical” necessities. The other stuff is pretty much basic for most students. Also, people are different and have their personal preferences. 

That’s why I decided not to make a personal list of things. Instead, I asked friends, went through internet forums, Reddit threads, and youtube videos to find the most popular items. The result is this list of 19 items you should/could put some money into before you get start med school.

  1. Stethoscope
  2. Tablet/laptop
  3. Coffee Machine
  4. Pens & Paper
  5. Comfy pair of shoes
  6. Backpack/laptop/shoulder-bag
  7. Comfortable desk chair
  8. Music streaming service
  9. Noise-canceling headphones
  10. Power bank
  11. Medical penlight
  12. Clipboard/folder
  13. Cloud storage
  14. Computer monitor
  15. Stethoscope case
  16. Water bottle/travel mug/tumbler

FYI, I don’t include any books on this list. You can check out my selection of book recommendations here.


1. Stethoscope

Let’s start off with one of the medical Necessities. Once you start to do clinical rounds you should have your own stethoscope. As a student, you want a stethoscope that has a good acoustic quality for a reasonable price.

There are plenty of cheap stethoscopes available, but these have bad acoustic qualities. My recommendation is the 3M Littmann Classic III. It costs more than many of the cheaper options but makes up for it in quality. It is good enough to last you through medical school and well into your residency. In fact, I still use it today.

Check out my detailed article about the best stethoscopes for medical students. Here you can get a look at other options and read why the Littmann Classic III is the best option for most students.


2. Tablet/laptop

Even if you make most of your notes on paper, you got to have one. You will have to manage some stuff online, including email. Also, there are plenty of really helpful resources online. 

Most will have one before starting. But if you are looking for a new one, I am in no position to recommend anything. Individual needs differ greatly, the only thing I urge is to get something that suits you. 

I prefer a simple laptop. This is because I only use it for browsing, email, music, and video streaming and notes. 

If you are interested in recommendations I would like to direct you to laptopmag and their Laptop and tablet buying guides.


3. Coffee machine

I know there are people out there that do fine without coffee. I and many others are addicted to it. Also, I believe life is to short to drink crappy coffee at home. There will be plenty of that once you start working in the hospital.

Personally, I’ve gotten sucked into the pod coffee sphere which I am perfectly fine with. Over time it’s not the cheapest solution, but the coffee is great and it’s very convenient. 

There are several brands to choose from but my favorite is Nespresso. Getting a coffee machine like the VertuoPlus Coffee and Espresso Machine is an affordable option.

A slightly cheaper option is getting a Keurig coffee maker. The concept is the same as the Nespresso machines, but everything is slightly cheaper. The best selling model is the K-Mini Coffee Maker that fits any student budget.

If you want cheaper alternatives or are unsure about what you should get or. Follow this link to head over to homeground.co’s detailed guide to coffee brewing methods. Here you can find tons of information about the different brewing methods and their pros and cons. You will also be guided to the best equipment for your needs.


4. Pens and paper

Sometimes you cant use your laptop or tablet. This is where the good old pen and paper comes in. If you are the type that likes to make beautiful, colorful notes you want to get some colored pens and highlighters.

If you’d like some recommendations for higher quality pens, I’m sure you can find it online. I get along perfectly with my standard notebook and blue ballpoint pen. If you are like me, get a box of BIC ballpoint pens and never worry about it again.


5. Comfy pair of shoes

This becomes increasingly important once you start having more clinical rounds. Being on the ward can equal a lot of standing around hospital beds. Therefore, you should have a comfy pair of shoes to keep you standing throughout the day.

There are plenty of clog-type shoes aimed at health care professionals, but these can get pricy. Settle for a decent pair of trainers. 


6. Backpack or laptop/shoulder bag

Really convenient to have to carry your books and laptop/tablet. Again, I’m no expert on bags and are in no position to recommend any particular type. What I will say is that if you have a bike, you should go for a backpack. 

I had a shoulder bag before deciding to get a bike, and it can be really annoying when it keeps sliding around. If you need some inspiration you can check out the best selling backpacks on Amazon.


7. Comfortable desk chair

You will spend a lot of time on your bum studying in med school. Because of this, you might just make yourself comfortable from day one. I delayed purchasing an office-type armchair for more than a year, thinking I should save the money for something else.

Once I finally came to my senses I cant see how I didn’t get one sooner. I don’t have any particular recommendation, but It does not have to be an expensive one. Try to get one second-hand, or look through the top sellers on Amazon for some inspiration.


8. Music streaming service

Everyone I know listens to music. I can listen to music on any occasion. Also, I loved listening to music while studying. Whether you listen to while studying or not, a music streaming service comes in handy in your leisure time or during workouts.

I have been a customer of Spotify for years and love the service. However, I have recently been tempted by Googles Youtube music. The main reason is that you also get Youtube premium with the subscription. 

This means you can watch as many youtube videos as you like without any commercials in addition to the music streaming service. This can come in pretty handy for any medical student. I spent my fair share looking at youtube lectures (Dr. Najeeb anyone?) during my studies. And I doubt current students use it less.

If you don’t already have a subscription, both services offer free trials and special student prices for subscriptions. Try them out to help you decide which one to choose.


9. Noise-canceling headphones

Whether you just love music, have noisy roommates or spend a lot of time in the library. A pair of noise-canceling headphones can be a true blessing.  Once turned on, any background noise is silenced, enabling you to focus on studying.

I got a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones that I’m very satisfied with. To find a pair for yourself, check out this extensive guide over at thewirecutter.com.


10. Power bank

A good power bank can come in handy for long days in the hospital or library. This is especially true if you use your phone or tablet for your studies. I did not need one as I spent most of my time with a laptop. However, many of my friends couldn’t shut up about how great their power bank was.

If you find yourself constantly running out of power on your portable devices, you might consider getting one. Check out this article over at TechRadar.com for recommendations.


11. Medical penlight

The penlight is the universal tool that should be in the pocket of any healthcare worker. Although you find it most useful during neurological examinations, it is a versatile tool. You can use for better visualization skin rashes, wounds, and sore throats. 

Most students settle for using their smartphone flashlight or a crappy penlight. But using the smartphone quickly becomes unpractical if you have to wear gloves and a crappy penlight is well, crappy.

I recommend investing in a durable and solid penlight like this one from Weltool. To read more about why and other available options, check out my review of medical penlights.


12. Clipboard/folder

When doing rounds, you will spend most of the time on your feet. Unless you use a tablet, you got to have one of these to take notes. A simple clipboard like this one will do the trick

If you want to up your game, you can check out the Whitecoat MedInfo Clipboard. Not only can it be folded in half for storage in your pocket. The inside is with detailed medical information such as basic laboratory values, acid base determination, GCS scale, and much more.


13. Cloud storage

It is not unusual to have several textbooks in pdf formats or video lectures on your computer. These can take up quite a lot of space. At the same time, most laptops are being made with less built-in storage.

That is why you should get some cloud storage. The best option is to go with google drive. If you have a Gmail account you can get 15 gigabytes with the click of a button. With this amount of space, you can store tons of notes and lectures that can be accessed on all your devices.


14. Computer monitor

This is perhaps the item that I didn’t get that I regret the most. I have one today, and I’m never settling for the laptop screen again. Being able to have both a PDF/video and text document open at the same time is invaluable when studying.

This is not something you want to spend a lot of money on. Just get a decent used one that will do the trick.


15. Stethoscope case

Although most stethoscopes are relatively solid. They can get damaged if stuffed into a backpack with a lot of clutter. This is especially true for the diaphragm, which is what picks up the sound.

I got scared once when the diaphragm had detached from my stethoscope. Fortunately, it was undamaged and I could just put it back on. Nevertheless, having a stethoscope case can come in handy. 

Not only does it protect your stethoscope, but it can also function as a “ward pencil case”. It can house pens, highlighters, your penlight, and even a small bedside pocketbook. I recommend the case from caseling. It’s affordable and fits any stethoscope you might have and then some. 


16. Water bottle/travel mug/tumbler

Like I mentioned, I love coffee. I also tend to get these slight, annoying headaches if I don’t drink enough water. To cope with this I got a tumble travel mug which I use as both a coffee mug and a water bottle.

I choose the YETI Rambler, and I’m really happy with it. The thermal insulation is great for both hot and cold drinks, and it is really easy to clean.


17. Comfortable mattress

Although I appreciate a comfortable mattress, I’m a heavy sleeper that falls asleep easily. As long as the mattress is OK, imperfectly good. Therefore, this was never an issue for me as the mattresses where I rented were decent.

That being said, medical school is demanding, and sleep is important. If you struggle with sleep and need a good mattress, this might be right up your alley. If this sounds like you, Don’t waste time tossing and turning. Try to get a comfy mattress to help you manage.


18. Alarm clock

As I said, I’m a deep sleeper. While most people use their cell phones as an alarm clock, I want a loud backup. Just for the record, I usually woke up using my cell phone. However, my backup alarm clock saved me a couple of times.

Don’t spend any money on this, just get something that makes a lot of noise when you want it to. 


19. Crock-pot/slow cooker

As a medical student, you will find yourself pressed for money and time. Eating out gets expensive, but you don’t have time to cook meals every day either. This is where a slow cooker can come in handy. 

This ingenious device will allow you to throw in anything you need to make any type of stew. then just let it do its magic at low temperatures over several hours and you can have a tasty stew ready once you get home.

Sadly I did not get one during my studies. But I have since bought a 4 quart, stainless steel crock-pot. It is not expensive and is big enough to make a meal for yourself and your friends. Also, you can find lots of youtube videos with inspiration for what food to make.

Final words

That pretty much sums it up. I hope you found it useful. If you did, share it with your colleagues to help them out. If you have any suggestions for items that should be on this list. Be sure to leave a comment in the comment section below.