10 Items for Your Home Health Nursing Bag
Every nurse carries around a lot in their nursing bag, but this is doubly true for home health aides who can’t run to a supply closet to get something they forgot. They have to carry everything they need in their bag or their car. To help you start stocking your home health nursing bag, we outline 10 items below that every home health aide should carry with them at all times.
Obviously, to have a home health nursing bag, you need the bag itself. Look for a bag with a hard exterior surface, such as vinyl or leather, as these nonporous materials can be easily disinfected in a way that fabric can’t. You’ll also want plenty of pockets of all different sizes to hold the items listed below, and make sure the bag has sturdy straps and/or handles that can stand up to a lot of wear and tear.
Blood Pressure Monitor
Right next to the stethoscope should be your blood pressure monitor, which measures (you guessed it) blood pressure. Since many home health patients tend to be older and high blood pressure is common among older patients, it’s important to take a blood pressure monitor with you on each visit.
Just like your mom told you in elementary school, fevers are an important signal that an illness could be contagious, which is why you should store a thermometer in your home health nursing bag. If you suspect a patient might have an infection, illness or another health issue, a thermometer can quickly confirm whether or not they have a fever and help you narrow down the list of possible causes.
These tiny-yet-powerful flashlights are used to assess pupil response, examine the mouth and throat and check wound areas. Many bags come with an extra-narrow pocket that’s just the width of a pen, creating a perfect spot to store your penlight.
Sharps Container and Biohazard Bags
Unlike at a hospital, in a patient’s home there aren’t receptacles sitting in every room just waiting for you to dispose of hazardous materials at your convenience. Instead, you’ll have to carry your own with you from patient to patient. At a minimum, you should have a sharps container for used needles and biohazard disposal bags for specimen swabs, used glucose test strips and other contaminated materials.
Single Use Items
Lots of items fall into this category: alcohol prep pads, adhesive bandages, cloth bandages, medical tape, gauze, etc. You never know when you might have to bandage up a cut, so keep these materials in your home health nursing bag alongside a pair of nursing scissors that can be used to cut through the materials.
Sanitation is critical to stopping the spread of germs from patient to patient, and you’ll need to carry disinfecting products with you so you can clean up in between patients. Some basics to put in your bag include antiseptic towelettes, liquid hand soap and waterless hand cleaner, aka hand sanitizer. While it can’t be used on your person, a hard surface disinfectant is also a good item to keep on hand so you can clean your bag or instruments if they get contaminated.
It’s true that you should never travel without a towel — paper towels, that is. You don’t think about mundane paper towels until you need them to clean up a spill and the patient doesn’t have any on hand. If you can’t fit some of these in your bag, at least store a couple of rolls in your car so you can run out and grab them if need be.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
There are times when you’ll need to take extra steps to protect yourself from germs and contamination while on a home health visit. Non-sterile gloves, eyeglasses, masks, face shields and gowns are all important to keep in either your home health nursing bag or your car. Don’t forget to account for your own health as you’re taking care of your patients!
Whether you’re stocking your home health nursing bag for the first time or you’re a veteran looking to improve your technique, keep these 10 items in mind when putting together your home health bag to make sure each patient visit goes as smoothly as possible.