10 Stethoscope Tips For Beginners

May 24, 2018

10 Stethoscope Tips For Beginners

Using a stethoscope for the very first time can be both fun and scary. On one hand it is the first time you get to truly connect to this iconic instrument that makes you a true medic. On the other hand there is the fact that you probably don’t know where to start and you are scared straight that you might mess up. To help make your life easier, below are 10 stethoscope tips and tricks to help you use your stethoscope properly. Some of the tips included are to help you take care of the stethoscope for increased durability. That way whether you are a medical student using a stethoscope for the first time or a nurse trying a new specialty stethoscope, the stethoscope tips will help you get the most out of your instrument.

10 Stethoscope Tips

1. Know when to use it

A stethoscope is essentially a diagnostic tool. This means that there is an appropriate time to use it and other times where it is completely unnecessary. For the most part, stethoscopes come in handy when conducting circulatory and respiratory system examinations. So if your patient has a broken arm or a toe blister there is probably no reason to whip out your trusty stethoscope.

2. Know whom to use it on

Another one of the most important stethoscope tips is to understand the differences in terms of age when it comes to application. In this case, you have adult stethoscopes, pediatric stethoscopes, infant stethoscopes and fetal stethoscopes. It is important for you to figure out which of these you have and as a result which patients you should use it on.

3. Know what sounds to look out for

It is one thing to have the right stethoscope and use it appropriately and another thing to get accurate information from it. As you invest in the instrument, take time to learn what different sounds to look out for and what they mean. In this case, the best way to learn is through a combination of studying up and real-world experience. This is one of those stethoscope tips that are especially important for students and medic trainees.

4. Wear the earpiece correctly

Now that you know when, where and on whom to use the stethoscope, the next step is actually handling the instrument. One of the most challenging steps in this case is figuring out how to wear the earpiece. It might seem simple and straightforward at a glance. After all how hard can it be to put on a pair of earbuds right? Wrong. If you do not know exactly what you are doing, you might end up messing up resulting either in total discomfort for you or inaccurate sound transmission. When wearing the stethoscope earpiece, ensure that the earbuds face downwards and inwards. This allows direct sound transmission into the external auditory canal. You could also adjust this piece if the design allows it to ensure that you get a comfortable amount of tension once you wear it.

5. Choose between the bell and diaphragm depending on sounds you are looking for

This is yet another one of the most important stethoscope tips for both beginners and veteran medical professionals. It applies if you are working with a dual head instrument. The diaphragm and bell are two sound sensitive membranes one on either side of the head. The diaphragm is sensitive to high frequency sounds including breathing sounds in the airways and valve sounds in the circulatory system. The bell on the other hand is sensitive to low frequency sounds. These include surface vibrations from things like blood vessels. Understanding this difference will make it easier for you to make the right decision in terms of which side to use.

6. Tune the headpiece for improved sensitivity

This allows you to switch easily between bell and diaphragm settings by simply adjusting pressure on the headpiece. Increased pressure allows you to listen to high frequency sounds whereas lower pressure on the head makes it sensitive to low frequency sounds. However, it is important to understand that this stethoscope tip only applies to dual head stethoscopes with tunable headpieces.

7. The rub-to-warm trick on metallic stethoscope headpieces

This is one falls in the category of old stethoscope tips but is still very important and relevant. It is meant to eliminate discomfort to the patient during examination. Metallic headpieces tend to run cold. This could cause some shock and discomfort to the subject when the piece is placed on the skin. One of very old but effective trick is simply rubbing the headpiece on your lab coat for a few seconds to warm it up before using it.

8. Get faulty parts repaired or replaced ASAP

When using your stethoscope, it is important to regularly inspect it to ensure that all parts are functioning optimally. If there is an anomaly or damage, it is important to get it fixed as soon as possible. It could be anything from loose earbuds to detached tubing. Getting the problem solved ensures that your stethoscopes can function properly for effective results.

9. Clean and disinfect the stethoscope regularly

Care and maintenance tips are just as important as simple usage tips. It is therefore important for you to ensure that you keep your stethoscope clean. This help not only improve its durability but also prevents transmission of pathogens from subject to subject.

Read more: How To Clean A Stethoscope Like A Pro!

10. Store the stethoscope in a cool and dry place

The last beginner stethoscope tip is to keep your stethoscope in a cool and dry place. Heat affects the tubing and metallic parts and reduces the effectiveness of the instrument. Water, on the other hand, could cause corrosion or interfere with sound transmission if it enters the conducting pathways.

Bottom line

With all these stethoscope tips, you should be able to get started with the process of mastering the art of auscultation. All you need to do is to take your time to get to know and understand your instrument. Understand its build, its performance and most importantly its purpose. With this out of the way using it will become second nature in no time.

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