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Best Stethoscope for Nurses

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best stethoscopes for nurses

Last update, April 2017

As a nurse, you are going to face many challenges from the very first day in training school. Most of these challenges can be easily overcome with the right diagnostic tool at hand.

So…what is the best stethoscope for nurses?

The answer to this question will depend on who is asking. Is it the nurse, patient or other support staff?

In the end, only by assessing your needs can you choose the best stethoscope.

Are you still confused on which stethoscope model you should purchase? If so, we have a list of the top rated stethoscopes for nurses

Best Nurse Stethoscopes

NameOriginWeightLengthWarrantyPrice
Littmann Master Classic
USA5.7 ounces27 inches3 years$118.94
Littmann Master Cardiology
USA6.6 ounces27 inches7 years$191.12
Littmann Lightweight II S.E.
USA1.9 ounces28 inches2 years$48.28
Littmann Classic II S.E.
USA5.7 ounces27 inches3 yearsCheck on Amazon
Littmann Infant
best infant stethoscope
USA3.4 ounces28 inches3 years$96.94
Littmann Cardiology IV
littmann cardiology iv stethoscope
USA6.6 ounces27 inches7 years$189.79

Littmann PediatricPediatric Stethoscope

USA3.8 ounces28 inches3 years$79.00

Why you Need a Nurse Stethoscope

If you have performed general body examinations before, you are probably familiar with the stethoscope. Even patients are used to this familiar equipment as they have repeatedly seen medics use it on them to assess the stomach, heart or lungs.

Although patients are not familiar with the word “bruit”, they are aware of instances when the sounds you are listening to are not intestinal, cardiac or pulmonary sounds.

And while taking blood pressure requires the use of a sphygmomanometer, a stethoscope is still needed for more accurate readings.

In nursing, you will also meet first-time mothers anxious to listen to the heartbeats of the baby while still in the womb. The stethoscope will be a handy gadget as a nurse practitioner.

So, what should you consider when purchasing this important instrument? If you do not know how to use a stethoscope, you might want to watch the video below:

Now that you have some tips on choosing a stethoscope, let’s go through the most important points.

Personal Preference
Your personal preference is more important than the health care needs of your patients when it comes to purchasing a stethoscope. Unfortunately, most people overlook this factor.

  • Since you are the one who will be walking around with this stethoscope, either on your neck or in your pockets, the weight and the quality of materials used in making it will determine how comfortable you will be when having it.
  • If you are sensitive to some plastics, latex or nickel, choose a stethoscope made of hypoallergenic materials.
  • Consider the type and the length of the tubing. Buy a stethoscope that will conform perfectly to your ears and won’t keep falling off carelessly.
  • Consider the materials used to manufacture the steth. You may need to have the steth in your pockets for long hours. Therefore, the materials should not be too bulky to tear your pockets.
  • You will carry the stethoscope sometimes for up to 12 hours a day. Therefore, get a stethoscope that can be accessorized. For example, if you are working in the pediatric department, you could attach beautiful small toys to the steth to keep your young patients happy while you examine them.
  • If you are working in a busy department that may at times require you to multi task, choose a light stethoscope that will not be a nuisance.

Practice Preference

littmann stethoscope 3100 reviewThe nursing school stethoscope and the one you will use in practice may differ. Many time, you will need to upgrade your steth.

When you start practicing, you will discover that there are tools needed for specific special circumstances. These special patient care areas may include:

  • Emergency triage and management
  • Geriatrics
  • Critical care
  • Anesthesia
  • Holistic care
  • Midwifery
  • HIV care
  • Military applications
  • Occupational health
  • Neuroscience
  • Nurse practitioner practice
  • Oncology
  • Women’s health care
  • Psychiatric care
  • Perioperative care
  • Transplantation
  • Research
  • Trauma management
  • Incontinence care
  • Wound care
  • Ostomy care
  • Pediatrics
  • Neonatal care
  • Cardiac care

Moreover, you must also consider the place of care. These may include:

  • Forensics
  • Training and education
  • Legal consultation
  • Health care provision
  • Itinerant/travel nursing
  • Informatics and biometrics
  • Case management using a variety of collaborative models

Patient Preferences

Since you are going to use the stethoscope on your patients, consider their reaction and attitude towards it.

For instance, choose a stethoscope that your hands can readily warm up so that patients are not startled when you put it on their skin on a cold day.

Although patients may not loudly whine about the cold diaphragm, a stethoscope made with materials that get chilled fast can ruin the patient’s mood.

Features of the Stethoscope

After making a list of your preferences, considering your specialty and accommodating your patients’ preferences, you are now at a better position to cross off some stethoscopes in your list. The next step is to evaluate the features of the stethoscope.

Stethoscope Components

As a nurse, you are familiar with indirect measures of function. The laboratory will let us know what is going on inside our patients. Imaging (CTs, MRIs, PET scans, X-rays) will show us exactly what areas are being affected. For you, the only avenue to making a diagnosis is your stethoscope.

With your stethoscope, you will get information about breathing, digestion, joint function and even activity of the heart and other muscles.

This information will be from your interpretation of the sounds produced by these organs. Here are some functions of some parts of the stethoscope.

  • The ear piece

stethoscope ear tipsThe ear tips are the parts of the stethoscope that directly go into your ears. The parts may be made of soft rubber or plastic or even customized by an ear mold expertise or your audiologist. Customizing the ear tips is especially necessary if you have irregular concha or pinna structures.

Customizing the ear tips will improve the quality of the sound you hear while providing comfort at the same time .

If the ear tips are made of rubber or plastic, you will likely need to replace them after some time. These materials are easily distorted by sweating and cerumen.

  • Transmission Mechanism

Traditional stethoscopes with flat plate heads transmit sounds acoustically. The heavier the head, the more sensitive it will be to sound. For example, steel heads transmit sounds better than aluminum heads.

On the other hand, electronic models transmit sounds visually. They also allow recording and the sounds are amplified.

A flexible plastic or rubber tubing (single or double) together with a binaural plastic yoke or metal is what connects the head to the ear pieces.

Generally, tougher tubing transmits louder and clearer sounds.

  • Collection Mechanism

The part of the stethoscope that collects sound is a flat part called the “head.” Depending on the sound spectrum, the head may be big or small and its shape will also vary.

Stethoscopes with single heads are mostly tuned to heart sounds. The steths are also used to check how the lungs are functioning and for taking vitals.

In double head stethoscopes, one side has a bell for picking up low frequencies while the other has a diaphragm for picking up high pitched sounds. Triple heads are less common but when present, collect additional bandwidth that allow for a more intense evaluation of the heart.

Stethoscopes with triple heads are heavier than those with double or single heads.

Configuration Options

In the course of your nursing practice, you may be allocated a single specific duty or multiple duties. With this in mind, there are different categories of stethoscopes for specific purposes.

Stethoscopes for General Practice Nursing

littmann classic ii seThe most recommended stethoscope for general nursing is the 3M Littmann Classic II S.E. stethoscope.  The steth has excellent acoustic capabilities and is also durable. Nursing students are often advised to purchase this model if they can afford it will last to the end of their practice.

This high quality stethoscope comes with a 3-year warranty and is available at Out of stock

Read Littmann Classic S.E. Customer Reviews on Amazon

You could also opt for the Littmann Master Classic which has better sound capabilities than the Classic II S.E.

The Cardiology III and the Master Cardiology stethoscopes are relatively good options if you need excellent acoustic qualities and have the money to pay for it.

Best Stethoscopes for Cardiology Nurses

Littmann Cardiology StethoscopeThe good thing about cardiology stethoscopes is that they are also ideal for:

  • Renal failure
  • Emergencies
  • Trauma
  • Situations where the pulse is not palpable and you can hardly hear heart sounds.

Sometimes, you will hear sounds while in extremely loud environments. In such non-clinical situations, The Littmann Master Cardiology and The Littmann Cardiology IV will deliver, even in the absence of electronics. This is because these stethoscopes have tunable diaphragms on both the adult and the pediatric sides.

Although the Master version of these stethoscopes is single sided, it has a special adapter feature that enables more enhanced examination.

These stethoscope models are also designed with double tubing, which helps reduce background noise interference.

The Littmann Cardiology IV stethoscope has a five year warranty while the Master Cardiology has a seven year warranty.

You can get the Cardiology III stethoscope at$206.99 while the Master Cardiology stethoscope goes for $205.99.

Check Littmann Cardiology Stethoscopes Prices on Amazon

Best Stethoscopes for Pediatrics

Pediatric StethoscopeUnlike stethoscopes for general practice, pediatric stethoscope heads are smaller in size – barely an inch in diameter and three quarter inch when compared to the infant stethoscope.

Some pediatric stethoscope models come with tiny toys attached to them so that children are not intimidated by them.

The 3M™ Littmann® Classic II Infant Stethoscope has excellent acoustic  capabilities, rubbery tips that seal out ambient noise and an ideal head for infants. This stethoscope is the one mostly recommended for pediatrics.

The Littmann Infant Stethoscope made up of materials that are not prone to wear and tear and has a 3 year warranty.  You can buy the infant stethoscope on Amazon at $81.96

Check Prices of Infant Stethoscopes on Amazon

Warning

Although you can also purchase cheap pediatric stethoscopes for between 5$ to 30$ on the internet, these models are not durable. You cannot trust them to work well consistently. Using them can damage your reputation as a nurse.

Best Stethoscopes for Nurse Students

Most training institutions provide specifications of the stethoscope they require their students to have. You should choose a stethoscope recommended by your trainer.

You might be tempted to go for a cheap stethoscope as opposed to an expensive one. However, remember “cheap is expensive” when it comes to these medical gadgets.

Cheap stethoscopes compromise the quality of sound. Moreover, you will need to purchase many replacement parts over time, which makes them expensive in the long run.

You can purchase a used stethoscope as long as has not been subjected to wear and tear and the features are still great in shape.

The most recommended stethoscope for nursing students is the 3M Littmann Lightweight stethoscope. This stethoscope is ideal for reading accurate BPs and will provide correct data for your PEs.

Although the head is double sided, it fits perfectly under the BP cuff. You can also adjust the steth by playing around with the head pressure.

This stethoscope model is made of natural rubber and is therefore perfect for latex-sensitive nurses. You will carry this stethoscope into your real life practice if you purchase it while still in training.

The Littmann Lightweight stethoscope and The Littmann Classic II stethoscopes are also excellent for nursing students.

Best Amplified Stethoscopes

Amplified Electronic Stethoscope
Amplified Electronic Stethoscope

Prebycusis is a medical condition that makes people lose the sensitivity of the inner ear hair cells as they grow older. This means at some point in your career, you hearing capabilities will slowly start diminishing.

Most stethoscopes have acoustic qualities that allow normal and moderate hearing nurses to get correct pulmonary analysis or BP reading. These stethoscopes, though excellent in quality, cannot adequately cater for the needs of nurses with imperfect hearing. Nurses with hearing problems need a stethoscope with an amplifier.

In most stethoscopes, the amplifier is placed in the tubing. However, there are stethoscopes that have it integrated into the yoke or head.

A good recommendation of a powerful amplified stethoscope is the Thinklabs One electronic Stethoscope.

Another stethoscope that is often recommended for nurses who are hard of hearing is The Littmann electronic stethoscope 3100. Although this stethoscope looks lighter than many others, it has a stainless steel head that uses a similar operation mechanism like the standard steths.

electronic stethoscope with usbThis stethoscope is also tunable, with frequency and volume amplification controls at the head of the gadget. Another interesting feature of this model is the USB slot which is compatible with recording devices, headphones or PC. These features make the steth ideal for use in telemedicine or documentation of medical records.

You don’t have to worry about charge with the Littmann electronic 3100. The steth automatically shuts down, therefore saving energy. Besides, it uses AAA batteries which can be bought anywhere.

Did I mention the head accessories of the instrument, which allow geriatrics and pediatricians to switch diaphragms?

Check Prices of Littmann Electronic 3100 Stethoscope on Amazon

Conclusion

As a practicing or a student nurse, the instruments you carry with you will determine your performance.

It is important to go for the stethoscope that will not only strengthen and support your skills but that you can also rely on all day. Once again, here are the best stethoscopes for nurses:

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