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March 23, 2013

Tools of the Trade

"What do you carry with you on shift?" 

This question has come up a few times, so I figured I'd put it down in one place:

Breast pocket:
3 pens
Sharpie (industrial) for marking landmarks (#13; eg cric, LP, and paracentesis)
Rear pocket:
2 sheets of paper, folded in quarters for signout, notes, etc. I print out the track board intermittently and put some brief notations
iPhone (not pictured, because it's taking the picture; usually in breast pocket these days)

Trauma shears: most useful ED tool

mini-LED (like these) so I always have a light without ever needing to think about it
retractable reel clip
stethoscope; still useful in a handful of situations, mostly wheezing, reiki, and leading into questions about smoking
Shift bag:
head lamp (AA battery powered) for things like finger & scalp lacs
paper prescription pad
[UPDATE 8/7/2018: I don't carry these anymore because we stock them]
big clamp
meconium aspirator & swivel adaptor for messy airways
extra guaiac cards & developer
3-way stop cocks -- poorly stocked in my ED, can come in handy (here, here, here, here, here, here)


  1. Big ol pen light, small scissors to go w my big shears, alligator forceps for fb, scalpel, ntg pills,, xylocaine gel (invaluable for the diff. Foley), Rx pad, clamp, 16ga angiocath, 22ga spinal needle, dermabond, extra fine pt. Sharpie, stethoscope (yes I use it), calipers (damn you Steve Smith) And yes, my coat is heavier than when I was a med student.

  2. Pik- Thanks for adding yours! Good list- I like the alligator forceps -- will try to find a pair. My dept has lots of lidocaine gel (2nd only to saline in our supplies here), otherwise I would have my own. I also just make my own calipers by marking a piece of paper... our dermabond is in a secret locked compartment because it's "expensive"

    1. added alligator forceps to my shift bag, courtesy of Amazon

  3. Great article! One question for Pik please? Whats the spinal needle for? LP or something more esoteric? And you guys dont need white coats..you need backpacks ;-)

    1. Smaller than our standard 20ga which comes in LP kit = less post tap HA, and it's nice to have a really long needle- I've aspirated knees, tapped lungs, marked a fb under sono as finder needle, and done pericardiocentesis.

    2. useful for femoral nerve/fascia iliaca block too