Do Nurses Use Stethoscopes?

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If you’ve ever had a health problem that requires medical attention or you know someone who has, the image is likely indelibly impressed in your mind a doctor wearing a stethoscope around his or her neck. 

But that image shouldn’t be carved in stone. Doctors aren’t the only ones who use stethoscopes-nurses wear them, too, and not just casually. There are significant differences between how doctors and nurses use stethoscopes, and there may also be differences in the stethoscopes they use. Of course, some of that depends on the medical setting and the situation. Still, given that most laypeople are utterly unaware of this, the basic question “do nurses use stethoscopes?” is definitely worth some examination. 

Stethoscope Basics: Standard vs. High Tech and Doctors vs. Nurses

Doctors generally have a choice between basic stethoscopes and their high-end counterparts. The basic ones are simply sound amplifiers. They’re designed to increase whatever doctors hear during a routine physical or when they’re investigating a specific medical problem. 

Nurses frequently use these basic stethoscopes as well. They may have different needs, but the basic, one-size-fits-all standard stethoscope remains a valuable and helpful tool in just about any medical setting. 

But standard stethoscopes now have high-tech counterparts that can get a lot more specific in the sound information they convey. For instance, they might help doctors amplify sound by a specific percentage-75 percent, also providing noise reduction capability. 

Some nurses can use this level of accuracy and precision, too, but not all. Cardiac nurses would be one example of a nurse needing a specialized, high-tech stethoscope, along with those who work for and with internists. 

But most nurses just need the basics. They’re looking to measure a heartbeat and a pulse right, along with any other significant stray sounds they may encounter during an examination. 

Interestingly, many doctors also prefer the basic models. This is mostly a matter of instincts and habits for many of them, given that they all probably started with the basic models when they knew next to nothing. 

As their knowledge grew, though, they came to prefer the more specialized instruments, which is understandable given how much doctors tend to value their own experience. 

Many nurses have had a parallel path when it comes to building their knowledge, but they do have some specific needs that are different from those of doctors, so let’s take a more specific look at those. 

Nurses and Stethoscopes

Simply put, nurses tend to look for different things than doctors when they use a stethoscope. Durability tends to be paramount-they’re often on the move in a variety of medical settings, which means the stethoscope automatically gets dropped, pulled on, or otherwise roughed up. A stethoscope that can handle the rigors of that kind of duty is a valuable tool, and like doctors, many nurses tend to prefer the basic models. 

So what makes a stethoscope durable? Most of the requirements are fairly basic. The tubing must be thick enough to survive long days of endless rounds, and the chest piece must be similarly solid and well-made. 

Nurses also tend to look for flexibility in the stethoscopes they use, partly because they’re moving around and because they tend to be in more situations and positions with patients where that flexibility becomes necessary. 

Technology Marches On

3M Littmann CORE Digital Stethoscope
  • Connects to Eko software to visualize and share heart sound waveforms (smart device not included)
  • Up to 40x amplification (at peak frequency, vs. analog mode)
  • Active noise cancellation reduces unwanted background sounds
  • Toggle between analog and amplified listening modes
  • Soft-sealing ear tips provide an excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit; Tunable, dual-sided...

Last update on 2022-12-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As is the case with virtually every other instrument, specialized or otherwise, stethoscopes are adding new features and capabilities all the time. 

No one should be surprised to learn that the more advanced stethoscopes have gone digital. This allows them to convert acoustic sound to electronic signals, and these can be amplified or reduced with more precision. The other significant advantage of digital stethoscopes is that they provide information that can be processed and analyzed, providing doctors and nurses with valuable clues they can apply to diagnostic situations and specific treatments. There are dozens of medical software programs that use this kind of information for many medical reasons, and having it available represents a significant technology leap. 

Believe it or not, doctors and nurses can even get stethoscopes with Bluetooth capability, which is perhaps one of the ultimate examples of cutting-edge technology applied to a relatively ancient tool. Of course, there are also hand-held tools that can do what a stethoscope does, but it remains a valuable instrument that will likely never be replaced entirely. 

For nurses, though, versatility is also a key factor. the key as well. They’re often taking a variety of settings in emergencies, and the convenience and accuracy of a basic stethoscope can mean the difference between life and death for some patients. 

Interestingly enough, the man who pioneered the modern stethoscope also emphasized its importance for nurses. 

Dr. David Littman, who invented today’s stethoscope in the 1970s, knew the instrument he made was an essential part of the nursing assessment. He was also aware that using it effectively was part of their diagnostic skills. 

Stethoscope Marketing for Nurses

MDF ProCardial Rose Gold
  • TRUSTED by Doctors, Nurses, Students, Home Health, Medical Providers since 1971 | Backed by our Full...
  • ProCardial Cardiology line is known for performance, durability and aesthetics. Constructed from...
  • CHESTPIECE: cardiology grade dual head stethoscope for adult diagnostics that delivers transmission...
  • PATENTS to maximize sound performance, durability and comfort for extended use, including our...
  • TUBING: C34 tubing has 34 channels etched inside to direct clear and precise sound waves without...

Last update on 2022-12-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Given the differences in usage, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that various marketing techniques are used when it comes to nurses and their specific needs. Stethoscopes are rated and marketed just like any other medical product, commercial or otherwise, and some of the tactics different companies use are eye-opening indeed. 

Let’s look at a couple of intriguing examples. One of the best-rated stethoscopes for pediatric nurses, for instance, is the ADC Adscope 618 Pediatric Stethoscope, which features snap-on animal faces to keep young patients busy while nurses take the necessary measurements.

Similarly, there are highly rated stethoscopes for nursing students, cardiologists, etc. The ones for nursing students emphasize both price and durability, while the ones for cardiologists are designed to appeal because they’re made of surgical steel. 

Perhaps the ultimate version of marketing specialization emphasizes style in some stethoscopes. There’s even a model made with a sleep rose gold design, with white tubing as a complement, so nurses with a fashion sense who are willing to spend the extra money can go that route as well.

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