One of the aspects of being a nursing professional that you don’t realize in before your medical training is that you often end up buying your own personal equipment. As with everything, if you’re looking for a quality, reliable device you’ll sometimes need to pay a bit extra. When I misplaced (don’t ask me how) my old stethoscope a couple of weeks ago, I needed to replace it quickly. I’d had my old stethoscope since I’d started my training and, though I was undoubtedly attached to it and if I’m honest it wasn’t exactly the best purchase I’d ever made. I thought I’d use the opportunity to research and buy a high-quality replacement.

As a Nurse Practitioner, a large part of my role involves examining patients and updating their records. I use my stethoscope a lot throughout the day, maybe even more often than some doctors! As a result, one of the most important factors for me when choosing a new stethoscope was that it was lightweight and comfortable to wear. I also needed a device that works well with both adult and pediatric patients.
Stethoscopes fall into two broad categories; acoustic and electronic. My next step was to decide which would best support my work with patients. For those of you who are wondering, the main difference between acoustic and electronic stethoscopes is that electronic stethoscopes amplify sounds and then optimizes them for optimal listening and medical interpretation; whereas acoustic stethoscopes rely on the sound being transmitted to the medical practitioner’s ear through air-filled tubes. You’re probably more familiar with these kinds of stethoscopes.

It’s clear that electronic stethoscopes have many advantages over traditional acoustic stethoscopes. They amplify the body’s sounds, and some of them can even be used in conjunction with an optical unit to display and record the information. While these are all real pluses, it is also true that electronic stethoscopes have some drawbacks. They tend to be heavier than acoustic stethoscopes, and many of them require a power source, such as a battery, to be attached for them to work efficiently (or at all). This makes them less mobile, a real drawback for nurses working on their feet all day and taking numerous readings each shift. If the battery died, I just wouldn’t have time to step out and wait for it to recharge.
Another drawback is the cost; good electronic stethoscopes can cost hundreds of dollars, compared to the $100 – $250 you would be looking to pay for a quality acoustic stethoscope. While I was keen on buying a good quality stethoscope, I didn’t think the extra functionality provided by the electronic stethoscopes I looked at really justified the additional cost. I felt like I would be paying much more for a heavier device that came with features that I just wouldn’t use that often, if at all. All in all, electronic stethoscopes appear to be better suited to specialists who require precise readings, rather than nurses who take a lot of readings over the course of a working day.
So, I had narrowed my options down to acoustic stethoscopes. As I said, I needed a light device that I could use with a wide range of patients. I also wanted one with comfortable ear pieces. The chances are that I would be taking this on and off a great deal throughout the day and the last thing I wanted was a set that irritated my ears or, even worse, didn’t effectively isolate the sounds from the patients’ body.

When discussing these factors with a colleague, she suggested that I considered the 3M Littmann Cardiology III. She said that she had had hers for over a decade and that it was still going strong. It was light, robust (I often saw her shove it into her backpack at the end of the day before she cycled home; it still kept its shape and sound quality despite her mistreatment!) and comfortable. Better still, its double-sided chest piece meant it could be used with both child and adult patients. For you design nerds, the Littman has a combined two in one (‘dual lumen’) tube system that effectively reduces noise interference, which helps you hear the patient more clearly.
I’ve had my 3M Littmann Cardiology III for nearly a month now, and I’m really pleased with it; this is a perfect tool for nurses! As bottom line, if you are looking to buy a new stethoscope I would suggest you to let to be advised for good specialized pages. In my case I found a lot of useful information both on Stethoscopes.Ninja and AllNurses.com. Makes everything easier 🙂

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