Self-proclaimed nerd, speaking.
My favorite part about higher education is that the year is split into two semesters – that means two times a year that I get to go shopping for school supplies! Aside from the laptop and phone, I’m a huge proponent of writing everything down and I’m sure my list will reflect that! From the hallways of your medical school to the hospital corridors of your final clinical rotation, my list will be sure to have you prepared for the year to come!
#1 Writing things
I firmly believe that if you write it down, you’ll remember it. And I’m also a believer in the fact that high quality tools will give you high quality work so long as you put in the effort! My little pencil case was filled with odds and ends but it was never without what you’re going to be seeing on this list! From classrooms to scrub pockets, I was never too far from my favorite pen (and the handful I kept to let people “borrow”)!
Favorite pen: Uniball Inkjet Jetstream RT in fine point.
This pen has been a favorite since my college days and for good reason! It’s a retractable pen, which I love because I am forever losing pen caps and it’s got a really nice silicone coated body which makes for a nice grip. The ink flows so smoothly; you can even write while standing! It’s a mainstay in my pencil case and on my desk to this very day.
Favorite pen, but make it fancy: Sarasa Grand
The Sarasa Grand is by far my favorite mid-range fancy pen. For about $15, you get a sleek body in a variety of colors so you can choose your favorite! On top of all that, it fulfills my requirements for a quick-drying, smooth-running ink and a retractable pen; no lost caps at the hospital! And the best part is the spring in the clip that makes it adjustable for all white coats, shirt pockets and even bags!
Favorite pen to let people steal–I mean, borrow: The Jot ballpoint
Hospitals are the place where pens get lost and for that express purpose, I love picking up these Jot Brand ballpoints at my local dollar store and keep a bunch in my pocket. At 0.10¢ a pen, I don’t feel bad lending them out or if they disappear.
Favorite pencil: The Tombow 2558 B
An upgraded version of your usual No. 2 pencil, this Tombow is my pencil for everything from exam questionnaires to the occasional scribbled notes or to-do lists. The purple ferrule is the most eye-catching feature, but the most well-kept secret is the magnificent, soft and supple on-pencil eraser that makes it perfect on-the-go.
Favorite pencil, but make it fancy: The Tombow Mono100 in 2B
And for when you’re feeling fancy, nothing tickles my fancy more than the Mono100 is the pencil I keep in my pencil cup for both form and function. If the yellow No. 2 pencil is the Toyota of pencils, this pencil is a Rolls-Royce. Classic luxury in graphite form.
Favorite highlighter: Sharpie Smear Guard, thin in Banana Yellow highlighter
Banana yellow, better than fluorescent yellow in my mind, the Sharpie Smear Guard. I buy these by the box and after I thought they were being discontinued, I hoarded them like mathematicians hoard fancy Japanese chalk. They work great on glossy paper, don’t smear pen or pencil (even gel pen) and are so easy on the eyes that I don’t get a headache when I’m reviewing notes!
Favorite highlighter, but make it fancy: Uni Propus Window Q-Dry
When I first saw this come across my laptop screen, I was sure that it was a ruse, but the Uni Propus highlighters deliver! The coolest part is that they have a little window built into the chisel tip to show you the text as you write, creating highlights that are clean and crisp for every book. They are quick-drying and non-smear on even the glossiest of papers, are dual-ended with a fineliner for colorful underlining and come in a variety of colors – and we know we love that!
#2 Things to write in
For class notes: The Kokuyo Campus Notebook
Especially in the later parts of my school life, these notebooks were my absolute favorite – I loved that the lines were a hair thinner than your average college rule and that the paper was very smooth and did well with any pen I chose to write with that day. Above all, these notebooks are thick, each one having at least 200 pages. I could keep all my notes for the entirety of one semester in this beautiful, handy dandy notebook.
For white coats and hospital rounds: Field Notes, Pitch Black
Having to find something that fits in a white coat pocket is a challenge in and of itself, so when a friend sent me these before I headed back to school one year, I was smitten! Field Notes is a brand that’s been around for some time, specializing in pocket notebooks. You can pick your favorite color, a limited edition set, or even choose your notebook based on how the paper is ruled, and Voila! You’ve got a slim, quality volume that’s ready to go with you anywhere.
For deep thoughts: Exceed Journal or the Midori MD Diary
Exclusively found at Walmart, the Exceed brand is bar-none and competes amazingly well with journals double or triple the price. Found at your local Walmart in a variety of colors, it is great for journaling. I received my first Midori MD Diary as a gift, and enjoy the beautiful paper when I’m trying to put down my pre-bedtime burdens for a sound sleep.
#3 Planning and management
You may have read about me being a bullet journalist, but even before that, I loved planners. My very first was the free one they used to give out yearly at school, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the chance to explore the expansive planner market! Here are my favorites for each of the years I was in school!
1st Year: The Leuchtturm
A classic for every bullet journaler, the Leuchtturm 1917 in A5, dot grid, was my all-time favorite planner for bullet journaling as a beginner. Cream-colored pages were gorgeous. The light gray dot grid melted into the background, there were numbered pages, two ribbons and a table of contents that you could fill in yourself. Need I say more?
2nd Year: Travelers’ Notebook in A5
As time moved forward, I felt that I needed a way to plan that was more versatile. The travelers’ notebook style planner was my answer. A genuine leather sleeve that you customize with inserts of the same size (mine was A5), in my second year, I had an insert for a calendar, an insert for my academic work and an insert for case notes and random thoughts that came to mind (my “brain dump”). I could easily change out the notebooks depending on where I was headed or what I needed. Versatility at its finest.
3rd Year: The Hobonichi Cousin A5
As you can probably tell by now, I’m obsessed with lots of space and high quality paper. Another of my favorite A5-sized planners, the Hobonichi Cousin allowed me the opportunity to have a monthly calendar for a full year and a half, vertical weekly layouts and full-size pages for each day where I could create to-do lists, study plans and jot down grocery lists or journal entries. Looking back at the mess I made still makes me smile!
Clinical Rotation Year: The Hobonichi Weeks
Do not underestimate this slim little number. It fits into every white coat and scrub pocket, has the same gorgeous paper as its relative, the Hobonichi Cousin, does well with any pen, and is set up so that you’ve got a monthly calendar and weekly overview, with space to write any notes or lists you need on hand. I also glued an inside cover pocket onto mine which served well to hold anything from cash to the occasional cute sticky note left for me by my fellow clinical clerks.
My post-graduate go-to: Jibun Techo Biz in A5 Slim
With enough room to plan and journal, this planner has been my top choice since my graduation in 2019. I love the vertical weekly layout that allows me to look at my days and my entire week at a glance and the fact that it’s refillable so that I can choose various notebooks or inserts to complete my yearly set up!
Notebooks for Step studying: Miquelrius multi-subject professional notebooks
Color-coded, thick and with absolutely incredible paper, Miquelrius outdoes themselves with this spiral-bound multi-subject notebook. Small enough to fit into any bag, it is the notebook I use the most as I’m studying for Step because I can split up subjects and systems and organize each notebook the way I need most!
#4 Extras (and why, of course!)
- Ruler – because a straightedge is useful for more than just drawing straight lines – it can hold a place in a book, can help you open a letter or score a sheet or simply just do its job and help you draw a line when you need one. This one by Orions is my favorite, followed by this slim Westcott ruler.
- Scissors (nonstick) – more than for cutting paper, I used my scissors for everything from cutting tape, curling ribbon and the occasional loose thread on my uniform or scrubs! Very useful to have in a pinch, I always found that the days I didn’t bring these were the days we needed them the most!
- Sharpie markers – or any other permanent marker, really. I just like this brand because they sell one that’s a marker tip on one end and a find tip on the other end and it has saved me! Labeling everything from petri dishes to lab specimens to glass slides and notebooks or folders, it’s a must-have for me!
There is a place for stationery enthusiasts everywhere, medicine included! High quality tools allow us to do high quality work. Even more than that, they’re the way I express myself in a fast-paced world full of white coats and color-coded scrub. Most people choose a signature watch or their favorite bag – as for me, just look for the pen clipped in my pocket!