Stethoscopes are a tool. The people using stethoscopes are skilled workers. Many users are masters of their trade and specialty. Much as a mechanic might wear out a good wrench, individuals working in the medical field eventually reach a time when they need to part ways with their trusty stethoscope and find a new model. Determining when this time has arrived can be difficult, so here is a brief guide to help you anticipate when you might need to consider getting a new set of ears.
Consider some of the following scenarios when thinking about whether or not it’s time to buy a new stethoscope.
You Might Want an Extra Stethoscope
If you find yourself constantly leaving your stethoscope in your car, in your lab coat, or at another office consider getting a spare. It’s not uncommon for many healthcare workers to work at several physical locations. A doctor may have several hospital affiliations, or a nurse may work per-diem at another hospital on their days off. Arriving at the clinical setting only to find yourself without your stethoscope is a major bummer.
Use outside of work may be a consideration too. I can’t count how many times family and friends have been sick and have asked me to check them over, only to find that my stethoscope is at work. Sometimes having a model for use at home doesn’t hurt either.
When considering getting a spare stethoscope consider what capabilities your backup needs. You might find that you want to have the same quality and ability with your backup as you do with your primary. If you just need to have something on hand, and the capabilities of the stethoscope aren’t as important consider getting a cheaper stethoscope to use when you need it.
Wear, Tear, and Missing Pieces
Stethoscopes take a beating on the job. Oils from our skin do a number on the tubing from being worn around the neck. Between patients we clean them with harsh chemicals to kill germs. A normal day for my stethoscope includes being knocked and smacked on counters, beds, chairs, walls, and other equipment in the work setting. Think for a moment about the number of times per day that just the tubing gets twisted and folded. It isn’t a matter of if your stethoscope is going to get damaged, but when.
Many manufacturers now offer parts kits for stethoscopes. This often includes smaller components like ear pieces, and replacement rim and diaphragms. These parts kits are great, and allow many of us to keep our favorite stethoscope going when minor damage occurs. Unfortunately, when it comes to significant damage to tubes and the metal ear pieces you will find it harder to replace with OEM components.
Additionally, some of these repairs take special tools. If you reach a point where you might be without your stethoscope due to severe damage consider getting a new model earlier rather than later.
Your Skills Have Surpassed the Capabilities of Current Model
Congrats! You are becoming a pro at auscultation! As my own skills advanced I started to realize just how much I was missing with my budget stethoscope. A clear sign that you are missing out on key clinical information with your stethoscope is when the clinical picture of the patient, or what your colleagues are hearing doesn’t match your own assessment. This is often how we come to realize that our current stethoscope is not providing the acoustic clarity that we need.
A good test for determining what your current stethoscope is capable of vs. what a better model can do is to simply borrow someone else’s model for a short time to compare. If you work anywhere with a decent number of staff members using stethoscopes you are bound to find someone with a better quality model that you can try. Our workplace is often the best testing ground and showroom for the best stethoscopes.
It Walked Off
Probably the most frustrating reason to need a new stethoscope is theft and loss. It’s hard to really anticipate this happening, but when it does you will have to get a new one. Prevention is the best approach to this.