Stethoscope holders vs. stethoscope holsters: What you should know

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A stethoscope is a vital piece of medical equipment for many healthcare professionals. And one that is used daily. So making sure that you are doing everything right with your stethoscope can be important. 

Why not carry your stethoscope around your neck?

Any photo of a doctor, nurse, or other stethoscope-using healthcare professionals will depict them carrying their stethoscope around their neck in popular media. Some people do carry their’s this way in real life. But it isn’t always the best option. 

The reason for doing so is to keep the stethoscope easily to hand and avoid losing it across the course of the day. 

However, the problems with carrying a stethoscope around your neck fall into two camps: comfort and safety. Stethoscopes are light enough that they don’t feel like anything when you first sput them around your neck. But once you have been wearing it for many hours, the weight becomes very noticeable and can even lead to neck strain. 

On top of that, the stethoscope materials can end up rubbing the skin on your neck, which can irritate you. 

In terms of safety, the main issue with carrying a stethoscope around your neck is hygiene. Going from patient to patient and your bare neck in between can transmit infections to everyone the stethoscope touches, and studies have found high levels of bacteria on stethoscopes that could cause illness and disease. 

Which should I buy? A stethoscope holder or a stethoscope holster?

We’ve explained why carrying a stethoscope around your neck is often not the best course of action for medical professionals. So what is the alternative? There are two main options: a stethoscope holder/case or a stethoscope holster. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two. 

Stethoscope holder/case

 One of the options for where to store your stethoscope is a stethoscope holder or carry case. These cases will have a handle for you to carry them around for the day or even an over-the-shoulder strap. 

There are some real benefits to using a stethoscope holder. First, the cases will usually be zip-locked and made of lightweight but durable material. 

The inside is lined and molded to allow space for the stethoscope to sit and a few stethoscope accessories such as spare earpieces.

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Benefits 

With a stethoscope holder/carry case like this, you will be almost guaranteeing that your stethoscope remains hygienic between patients (especially if you sterilize it each time). In addition, the zip lock will prevent dust, skin cells, and other debris from reaching the stethoscope, and your skin won’t contaminate it. 

This is also the best stethoscope holder for increasing the lifespan of your equipment. With a protected and lined carry case, your stethoscope won’t get bumped, knocked, or scratched, and your sweat won’t degrade the rubber stethoscope parts as it would if it were around your neck.

Disadvantages

While these stethoscope holders are the most hygienic and protective of your equipment, they have some downsides. 

One of the practical reasons to wear a stethoscope rather than carry it is that there is always the chance of setting it down in a room and forgetting it. A stethoscope carry case suffers from the same issue. 

If it has an over-shoulder-strap, then this will reduce the chance of you losing your stethoscope, but the case has the potential to swing around wildly and/or get caught on other pieces of equipment. 

A carry case will also make it more fiddly to access your stethoscope. Rather than simply reaching to your neck to grab the stethoscope, you will need to unzip the case and pull the stethoscope out. Of course, this will only add an extra couple of seconds, but the process could become irritating throughout a shift. 

Stethoscope holster

An alternative to a full case is a hip clip stethoscope holder or holster. These are usually made of durable plastic or nylon and attach to your waistband or belt, and some can clip onto other parts of your uniform. 

The stethoscope is attached with quick-release clips for easy access, and they are lightweight and hands-free. There will often also be pockets for scissors and other small stethoscope parts.

Benefits

Compared to a carry case, the main benefit of using a hip clip stethoscope holster is that it is as easy to access as if it were around your neck. In addition, you can place it on your hip that is natural for you to reach to so that you can grab it on instinct. 

When compared to carrying your stethoscope around your neck, a hip clip stethoscope holder won’t cause neck strain or rubbing, and it is less likely to be contaminated by you between patients. 

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Last update on 2022-10-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Disadvantages

With that being said, a hip clip stethoscope holster does have some downsides. 

While your stethoscope is less likely to become contaminated than if it were around your neck, a hip clip holster doesn’t offer the same hygiene protection as a full carry case. It will still be exposed to the environment and has the potential to rub against your hands or people around you while it is on your waistband. 

It also won’t offer the same durability and protection as a carry case. The robust and durable plastic surrounding a case means that your stethoscope won’t get knocked or scratched, whereas a hip clip holder still leaves your stethoscope exposed to damage. 

To wrap up

For nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals, a stethoscope is one of the tools of the trade that will get the most use. The image of a person in a white coat with a stethoscope around their neck is ubiquitous, but comfort and safety issues often mean this isn’t the best solution. 

The different types of stethoscope holders each have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, a carry case holder is the best choice if you value hygiene and highly protect your stethoscope. On the other hand, a waistband hip clip holster is the best choice if you value ease of access and efficiency most highly. 

Once you find the right holder to suit your needs, you will wonder how you ever managed without it! 

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