Watches are an essential part of a nurse’s uniform — just like a stethoscope. But not all watches are created equal. In fact, sometimes fewer bells and whistles are better. But how do you know you’ve picked the right nurse watch to get you through your shift?
We’ve created a guide to make finding your next nurse watch easy and fun. Read on to discover the must-have features you need in your next timepiece.
Why Do Nurses Need Watches?
In the era of the smartphone, watches have become less essential to everyday life. If you want to know the time, you simply check the home screen on your phone. But there are certain times when you can’t (or shouldn’t) pull your phone out of your pocket, especially in healthcare.
Many hospitals and clinics discourage nurses and staff from having their phones out for fear of looking unprofessional. Plus, you don’t want to get all the germs of hospital life on your personal phone that you put against your face.
In addition to knowing the time so you can plan your med passes and know when someone’s PRN drugs are available, nurses need a watch for a couple of other reasons.
- Vital signs: Watches help healthcare workers calculate respiration rates and heart rates. You watch the second hand for one minute or 15 seconds while counting someone’s breaths or pulse. You can’t easily do this with a smartphone unless you go into the timer feature.
- IV pushes: Certain medications require calculated administration time, and not every drug can be hooked into an IV pump, making watches essential for timing your administration. With your hands preoccupied with the medication, a quick glance to your wrist is a lot easier than pulling a phone out of your pocket.
5 Must-Have Features for a Nurse Watch
To make sure you find the best timepiece to accomplish your required tasks, here are the features to look for in your next wristwatch.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthcare workers wash their hands up to 100 times during a 12-hour shift. The last thing you want to worry about is getting your watch wet while you scrub your hands and wrists clean. Having a timepiece that is water-resistant is key when it comes to nurse watches.
Many watches have some level of water-resistance that's measured in how many millimeters of water it can handle in a 24-hour period. For example, this subtle but classy Timex is rated for 25mm, meaning it can handle some rain and water splashes, but you probably shouldn't go swimming in it.
It doesn’t have to be rated for scuba-diving, but make sure there is at least some level of water-resistance to the watch you choose. This will help it last longer and make it easier to clean.
If you want to avoid getting your watch wet entirely, you have other options too. The lapel watch, fob watch, and pocket watch are timepieces that can attach to your scrub top or link together with your ID badge or work lanyard. While it’s a more traditional nursing look, these watches are great for people who don't like wearing watches.
2. Easy to Clean
Many of today’s watches have silicone straps or metal bands. These materials mean the bands aren’t absorbent like fabric bands. Having a non-absorbent band is a great feature for a nurse watch as this means there will be fewer ways for bacteria to sneak into the watch — plus, non-absorbent material makes it easier to clean.
You can scrub silicone bands with soap and water and dry them quickly. Stainless steel bands are also easy to clean.
If you get a fabric band wet, it can take hours to dry, leaving your wrist damp and potentially irritating your skin. The fabric can also carry germs around it for much longer than silicone or metal, so make sure you find a watch that can be easily scrubbed down with soap or CaviWipes.
3. A Second Hand
For taking patients’ vital signs, a time-saving trick we all learned in nursing or CNA school is to count for 15 seconds and multiply by four. This means it takes you a quarter of the time to calculate someone’s heart rate and respirations. But you need to have a second hand in order to do this.
Most nurse watches are analog with a sweeping second hand (often a red second hand to contrast) so you can easily see when to start and stop. Still, some nurses prefer digital watches. Not all digital watches display seconds, so if you’re team digital, make sure you find a brand that shows seconds in addition to hours and minutes.
4. Low Profile
Like most things in nursing, simplicity is key. This includes jewelry, makeup, and perfume. Just like a large dangling necklace is probably not a great idea to wear during your shift, you don’t want to wear a bulky watch either.
Thick, chunky watches can get caught on your patient’s sleeve or the dirty linens you’re trying to change, and they get in the way of putting gloves on. Larger watches tend to be heavier too and after 12 hours of running around, you may regret grabbing your biggest watch to wear.
The best nurse watch has a low profile, is lightweight, and blends in with your uniform. This doesn’t mean you can’t have some flair or personal touch with your watch — but be mindful that a trendy style doesn't overshadow function.
Choosing a watch that lights up is probably most necessary if you're a medical professional working the night shift. If you’re tiptoeing into your patient’s room to check their vital signs or adjust their IV pump, you want to be able to see the time without turning on a light.
There are several types of luminescence — some watches only light up the hands while others illuminate the entire watch face. Some glow all the time and others light up with a push of a button.
If you don’t usually work night shifts, you may not need a watch with luminescence, but it’s a nice feature if you’re ever caught in the dark and need to know the time.
What About Smartwatches?
Smartwatches like the Apple watch and activity trackers are very popular, bringing up the question of whether or not a smartwatch makes for a good nursing watch.
The answer is: it depends on the watch and the user’s preferences. Many of today’s smartwatches check all the boxes when it comes to nurse watches — they’re usually water-resistant, low profile, have a sweeping second hand, and are easy to clean.
Smartwatches can make great nurse watches, but they definitely aren’t a necessity. If you already wear a smartwatch then using it during your shift probably makes sense. This eliminates the need to switch watches just for work, and it allows you to track your biometric data from the watch (so you can see how many miles you walk in a 12-hour shift).
Smartwatches are also nice because you can program them to show military time, eliminating the need to convert the time in your head when charting.
Find Your Next Nurse Watch Today
When shopping for the best watches for nurses, you want to make sure they have all the watch features you need. High-quality watches help you get the job done without getting in the way. The best nurse watch will be easy to read, easy to clean, and come with a second hand to make sure you can quickly get a pulse reading.
Many classic nurse watches are unisex as they're meant to be a subtle feature of your nurse’s uniform, but today's healthcare professionals have more options when it comes to finding a watch. You can get personalized features and details with a timeless white dial wristwatch or a watch with a brightly colored or patterned watch band (like this leopard-print Nurse Mates Rose Gold watch).
A good way to figure out if you want a classic white or black watch or a leopard print watch is to look at your uniform as a whole. Is your closet full of brightly colored patterns or do you tend to lean more towards monochromatic scrub sets? Quickly assessing your work wardrobe can help you decide what your comfort and preferences are when it comes to watch color and design.
Now that you know the basics of finding the best nursing watch, go out and grab one — time is ticking away!