Stethoscopes

The 7 Best Stethoscopes for Nurses of 2021

For many medical professionals, a stethoscope can be a vital tool to perform their everyday work tasks. Since the tool is a necessity for healthcare workers like nurses, it makes for a wide variety of choices on the market.

Kati Kleber, an Illinois-based critical-care nurse, and nurse educator tell Dr.Hasanat Alamgir one’s patient population is important to consider when selecting the right stethoscope. She also recommends considering durability and sound quality when selecting the optimal stethoscope.

These scopes aren’t cheap, but using them every day means they need to be long-lasting, which can come with a heftier price tag. Megan Meyer, an ICU nurse in Colorado, tells Dr.Hasanat Alamgir that nurses should be wary of cheaper stethoscopes because of the thinner tubing used. “If you get something that is very sturdy and durable that’s not very bendable material, it makes it so much easier to accurately hear any cardiac sounds or pulmonary sounds,” she says.

After finding the best stethoscope that works for you, with the help of our guide, it is recommended to engrave your name on the tool to avoid any mix-ups when working with other medical professionals.

 

Best Overall: 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope

 

3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope

 

When starting your search for the ideal stethoscope, you might notice one brand continuously ranking higher than others: Littmann. The brand has solidified itself as the gold standard for stethoscopes for a reason. Its Classic III offers versatility for nurses as it can be used on a variety of patients, including small children.

Besides providing versatility, the stethoscope offers high-quality sound so you can detect normal and abnormal rhythms through its dual-sided stainless steel chest piece. This stethoscope works best in non-critical care environments such as medical offices, urgent care, and clinics.

 

Best for ICU and ER: Littmann 3200 Electronic Stethoscope

 

Best for ICU and ER: Littmann 3200 Electronic Stethoscope

 

Now we know this stethoscope is on the pricier end, but nurses can’t stop boasting about the benefits of this electronic stethoscope. Cara Flowers, a nurse based in Maryland, says she will most likely never use another stethoscope. “Yes, it’s pricey but totally worth it to really nail that ICU assessment,” she says.

The stethoscope hears critical sounds clearly and easily with an 85% reduction in distracting background noises, making it optimal for use in an ICU or ER. Since it’s digital, you can also increase the volume to amplify any sounds or rhythms. Another benefit is the stethoscope can seamlessly switch between hearing just heart or lung sounds, which allows you to focus on one system, Flowers says. “I have nurses and doctors ask me all the time if they can try it out and [they] love it,” she adds.

 

Best for Pediatric Nurses: ADC Adscope 618 Pediatric Stethoscope

 

ADC Adscope 618 Pediatric Stethoscope

 

Convincing a child to hold still long enough for a nurse to take their vitals is not always easy, especially if they are afraid of the doctor. But this pediatric stethoscope offers the perfect distraction for little ones with interchangeable, snap-on animal faces. Nurses say these animals soothe fussier patients so they can take their vitals.

Besides offering a fun distraction, the stethoscope also provides great sound quality to help with hearing all the necessary sounds and rhythms when accessing a patient. It is recommended to use this stethoscope on patients 10 years or younger for best results.

 

Best for Nursing Students: 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope

 

3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope

 

Nursing school is expensive as it is, which can make it hard to drop more money on a tool like a stethoscope. But Meyer says that a high-quality stethoscope is important because it helps teach nursing students to learn all the new sounds of the body. “When you’re trying to learn and listen to sounds you’ve never heard before with a poor-quality stethoscope, you’re not going to truly know what the sound is and learn it,” she says.

Meyer recommends purchasing a more inexpensive Littmann stethoscope like its Lightweight II S.E. The stethoscope is one of the more affordable from the top brands and acts as a solid entry-level option. Its tunable diaphragm, dual-sided chest-piece, and reliable acoustic performance make it easy to make blood pressure and physical assessments for adults.

 

Best for Cardiology: ADC Adscope 600 Platinum Series Cardiology Stethoscope

 

ADC Adscope 600 Platinum Series Cardiology Stethoscope

 

This high-performance cardiology headset provides optimal sound quality through a traditional one-sided chest-piece. ADC designed the stethoscope with surgical stainless steel to not only provide clear sound to nurses when using but also offer durability for daily use.

The stethoscope also offers an alternate frequency design (AFD) so the user can hear both high and low frequencies when using it on patients. Nurses say the stethoscope is incredible for auscultation, as it picks up all the sounds and frequencies necessary when examining a patient.

 

Best Carrying Case for Travelling Nurses: Caseling Hard Case

 

Caseling Hard Case

 

So you’ve found the right stethoscope. Now it’s about making sure you protect the tool and can seamlessly transport it when on the road, especially if you’re a traveling nurse. The Caseling Hard Case is designed to fit a stethoscope plus other accessories including extra earpieces.

Besides providing enough room for any stethoscope, the case is also semi-waterproof, shockproof, and made with durable material to protect your tool in any circumstance. Included inside are a mesh pocket and penlight holder to keep you organized when on the go.

 

Most Stylish: MDF Rose Gold MD One Stethoscope

 

 

MDF Rose Gold MD One Stethoscope

 

A function is obviously the most important factor to consider when purchasing a stethoscope, but that doesn’t mean you also have to sacrifice fashion. The MDF Rose Gold MD One Stethoscope is not only stylish but also incredibly functional for any workday task. It comes in a sleek rose gold design with white tubing, making for a fun tool to wear around your neck during the workday.

Besides looking nice, the scope comes with a dual-head chest piece to pick up a variety of frequencies. The stethoscope also offers an adjustable frequency design (AFD) to enhance the sound quality. Nurses rave about the quality of the stethoscope and its unique design.

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a high-quality stethoscope that can work in multiple nursing fields, we recommend the 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope. If you want a more stylish option that will still perform most of the functions you need as a nurse, we recommend the MDF Rose Gold MD One Stethoscope.

What to Look for in a Stethoscope

Thickness: The thickness of the tubing is important because it helps block out other noises when you’re listening to your patient. “[Tubing] can’t be incredibly thin because you’ll be getting a lot of frequency back from the environment,” Meyer says. A quality stethoscope, she says, should be thicker and heavier to wear around the neck.

Size: When talking about the size of a stethoscope, it’s the chest piece that makes the difference. Important qualities are to make sure it’s the right size for your patient population,” Kleber says, as pediatric patients will require a smaller chest-piece compared to the adult population. So it is best to select a stethoscope with a chest piece size based on the patient population you will be seeing.

Sound: High-quality sound is the most important part of a stethoscope. Period. If you can’t hear the different rhythms and sounds from your patient then you’re unable to perform your job. That’s why choosing a high-quality stethoscope with clear sound quality is imperative.

The Ultimate Stethoscope Buying Guide

 

For many medical professionals, the stethoscope can be a vital tool to perform their everyday work tasks. The acoustic medical device is used for auscultation or listening to the internal sounds of the body. Besides picking up heart rhythms, the stethoscope also detects sounds from the lungs, intestinal movement, and blood flow through the arteries and veins.

Since the tool is a necessity for medical professionals like nurses, it makes for a wide variety of choices on the market. Kati Kleber, a critical-care nurse, and nurse educator tell Dr.Hasanat Alamgir one’s patient population is important to consider when selecting the right stethoscope. She also recommends considering durability and sound quality when selecting the optimal stethoscope.

These scopes aren’t cheap, but using them every day means they need to be long-lasting, which can come with a heftier price tag. Megan Meyer, an ICU nurse in Colorado, tells Dr.Hasanat Alamgir that nurses should be wary of cheaper stethoscopes because of the thinner tubing used. “If you get something that is very sturdy and durable that’s not very bendable material, it makes it so much easier to accurately hear any cardiac sounds or pulmonary sounds,” she says.

After finding the best stethoscope that works for you, with the help of our guide, it is recommended to engrave your name on the tool to avoid any mix-ups when working with other medical professionals.

Key Considerations 

 

Thickness 

An important part of the stethoscope is the tubing that connects the bell, which picks up the bodily sounds, to the ear tips. Although thinner tubing might seem better because it makes for a more flexible and lighter device, that’s actually not the case. “[The tubing] can’t be too flimsy and it can’t be incredibly thin,” Meyer says. “That just means you’ll be getting a lot of frequency back from the environment.” She recommends purchasing a stethoscope with “very sturdy” and “durable” tubing that is not bendable. Paying attention to the thickness of the tubing will help you accurately hear bodily sounds from patients.

Size

When thinking about the size of a stethoscope, there are multiple measurements to take into consideration. First of all, you want to pay attention to the chest piece because that part is what will be picking up the sounds from your patient population. Some stethoscopes come with a chest piece with bells on each end, allowing for you to cater to a larger patient population. If you want a more universal stethoscope then it would be best to select one that allows multiple options.

Another size to consider is the foam earpieces. These earpieces work to block out background noises while you’re listening to your patient, so you want to make sure they fit right. “You want good earpieces that fit well because that makes a major difference in the sound,” Kleber says.

Sound Quality

It should come as no surprise that sound quality is an important consideration to take into account when purchasing a stethoscope. Nurses and medical professionals generally invest in more expensive stethoscopes that have higher sound quality. “Sound quality makes a difference on a busy unit because there are a lot of background noises,” Kleber says. To select the best option for you, try a variety of stethoscopes and pay attention to what sounds the device is able to amplify. Reviews on stethoscopes by other medical professionals can also help you better determine sound quality before purchasing.

Price

Stethoscopes increase in price depending on the quality of materials used, acoustics, and additional features on the device. It’s important to make an assessment of your needs before determining what scope you might want for yourself. While you don’t necessarily need to overspend for a quality device, it is important to consider that you’ll likely be using a stethoscope daily, so one that’s durable and has high-quality sound is a must. Although these scopes can be an investment, high-quality options should last you for years.

Durability 

Medical professionals and nurses often wear the stethoscope around their neck for easy access, especially given how much they use the device during a shift. With that, durability is imperative so you can use your device for years on the job without needing to replace it. This durability comes with the type of materials used and the thickness (see above) of the tubing on your scope. Stethoscopes are primarily made out of aluminum and rubber, so pay attention to the material description when making your purchase. Lower-quality materials can impact weight, acoustics, and how it wears around your neck.

Good Fit for Profession 

A cardiology nurse may need different features in a stethoscope than a pediatric nurse or an ER nurse. Electronic stethoscopes are also available on the market to pick up multiple frequencies and sounds. Overall, all of these devices are created to aid a medical professional, so taking your profession into account is important when selecting the best scope for you.

If you’re a cardiologist, you might want a stethoscope with “two different bells on the end to measure the different pitches,” Meyer says. A pediatric nurse, in comparison, might want a stethoscope appealing for children to look at and with a smaller chest piece. Then ER nurses might require high-quality earpieces and tubing to help block out background noise in their busy work environment. Think about what you’re doing when using a stethoscope to determine the optimal fit for you.

 

Comfort and Ease of Use

The stethoscope will be around your neck for likely the entirety of your shift, so it is important that it feels comfortable. There are stethoscopes on the market that are made to be lightweight, but pay attention if you’re looking to purchase one of those because it could also mean poorer-quality materials. ”A true stethoscope is a little bit heavier,” Meyer says.

Comfort with the stethoscope doesn’t just come with how it feels around your neck. It is also important the earpieces fit nicely in your ears when using the medical device. Quality earpieces should be made with soft and pliable rubber tubing that can mold to your ear canal. By considering comfort with your purchase, it will make using your stethoscope more enjoyable throughout the workday.

Product types

 

Acoustic stethoscope

The acoustic stethoscope works by transmitting sound waves from the chest piece to the earpieces. Sound waves from bodily functions like a heartbeat or air passing through the lungs with the chest piece in the stethoscope. Then the tubing on the device is used to direct the sound waves up to the earpiece. This is the traditional form a stethoscope takes, but some companies have further advanced the device by creating “dual-frequency” or “tunable” diaphragms.1 These advances allow for the device to pick up a variety of high and low frequencies.

Electronic stethoscope

One downside to acoustic stethoscopes is the inability to change the volume levels. Electronic stethoscopes can amplify sound waves from bodily noises, making it easier to decipher just what’s going on in a patient’s body. An electronic stethoscope takes physical vibrations of sounds and then translates them into an electronic signal. Some electronic stethoscopes also have the capability to lower background noise, which can be a game-changing advancement for medical professionals who work in a busy environment.2

Using an electronic stethoscope after taking auscultations through an acoustic stethoscope can take some getting used to, but the sound benefits make it worthwhile for some medical professionals.

Brand/Manufacturers 

 

Littmann

When starting your search for the ideal stethoscope you might notice one brand continuously ranking higher than others: Littmann. The brand has solidified itself as the gold standard for stethoscopes for a reason. “I am pretty sure every nurse I know goes for a Littmann brand,” Meyer says. Most of the stethoscopes cost over $100, but the brand also has a few affordable options for the budget-conscious person. The brand guarantees a “high level of consistent quality” from all of its devices.

MDF Professional Stethoscopes

MDF is another brand nurses rave about while discussing where they look when purchasing a stethoscope. Similar to Littmann, the MDF brand provides a wide variety of stethoscopes for any medical professional out there. But what has some people turning to MDF over Littmann is the price point. MDF offers more affordable options for people without sacrificing necessary features like high-quality acoustics. Only a few of MDF’s stethoscopes are over $100. The brand may not have the same name recognition as Littmann, but you won’t lose out on quality with an MDF device.

ADC

American Diagnostic Corporation (ADC) is a leader in medical devices, including stethoscopes. The company offers a vast variety of stethoscopes depending on the profession. These stethoscopes are on the more affordable end, so you won’t see as many with advanced features compared to other brands. But even though they’re cheaper, customers say the sound quality and materials used are suitable for everyday work tasks.

Maintenance

 

Medical professionals come across a wide variety of patients with all sorts of ailments during their workday, so it’s important the stethoscope is easy to clean and cleaned frequently. For cleaning, use a disinfectant wipe with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution. It’s not recommended to use hand sanitizer or other disinfectant solution. Also, do not immerse your stethoscope in a cleaning solution, as it could damage the device. These devices should last for years, but warranty and repair options are usually available.

Accessories

There is one main accessory to consider when purchasing a stethoscope: a traveling case. As medical professionals are quick to discover, these scopes are not cheap. So purchasing a traveling case can not only help protect the device but also assist if your profession requires you on the road. These cases also often come with additional features, such as extra pockets to hold other equipment.

 

Conclusion

Given its importance in the medical field, there’s a lot to consider before purchasing a stethoscope. The most important feature to consider is sound quality when researching stethoscopes. If you’re unable to accurately hear the bodily sounds of your patient, then the scope is not doing its job.

Since sound is important, that also means the materials used and thickness of tubing add to the quality of the device. Look for quality materials used to create the scope and the tubing, because that will determine how the sound travels from the chest piece to the ears. These key considerations all will lead back to finding a stethoscope that offers optimal sound quality.

Finally, listen to what other nurses are saying about the stethoscopes they use in their own profession. Their insights can often offer information about the ease of use, sound quality, and comfort the different devices provide.

Spread the love

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *