Stethoscope: What It Is & How To Use It

In today’s micro-lecture, Australian Paramedical College Hon. Snr. Lecturer Sam Willis talks about the stethoscope and how to use it for a range of different things, including undertaking blood pressure and listening to a chest.

In today’s micro-lecture we’re going to talk about the stethoscope. Now when you get to workshop one, you will use a stethoscope for a range of different things, including undertaking a blood pressure, listening to a chest. They are the key things you’ll be using it in workshop one. Now you can also use it to listen to heart sounds, but we don’t tend to do a lot with that in workshop one. So when you buy your stethoscope, and of course there are many different stethoscopes on the market, we do tend to get a lot of questions about, “Which is the best stethoscope to buy, how much do I need to spend, what are the key functions of it?” Now the reality is, it very much is a personal preference and a personal choice. Students really value getting a nice stethoscope because it is part of your professional socialization. And of course, we will be using it with patients as well. So for example, remember that when you’ve been to workshop one and workshop two, you have to undertake clinical placements. Depending on the type of clinical placements, you may be allowed to listen to a patient’s chest.

So again, it really is up to your personal choice as to which one you choose. If we take a look at this image here, this page, you can see there’s so many different types of stethoscope. In my experience, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good stethoscope. But what you could do, is start with one of the cheaper ones and if it doesn’t work for you, if you’re finding it difficult to hear patients’ breath sounds, then by all means, upgrade to something completely different. So there’s so many different ones available. You can also personalize them so that you can have different colors, you can have your name engraved. So, personal choice guys, do your homework, get online onto the Facebook forum and see what other people are doing with regards to what they’ve bought and how useful they found it.

So let’s talk about the key parts of the stethoscope. So when you get it out the box, some of them are already preformed. And what I mean by that is, so this is the headset part here. Now, when you use a stethoscope, the ears must be pointing towards your ears like that, not like this, not like this, they gotta be pointing down your ear canals, otherwise you won’t hear anything. You also end up with a number in the box, you do have a number of spare ear tip pads, so do not lose those, because I can assure you they will come off in clinical practice. The ear tubes are just metal, then you’ve got the tube in, which goes all the way down to the diaphragm here, and the bell. So this is really the action part of the stethoscope. The diaphragm is the largest part and the bell is the smallest part. No make sure you’ve twisted it so that the part that you want to use is turned on. You can turn this on by literally turning [inaudible 00:02:43] you feel for a click, put the ear tips in, give a gentle press, and if it’s really loud then that’s the side that you’re using.

Far too often we do have students who will try and listen, they can’t hear anything. Turns out they’ve turned the bell side, this part on, and this part off, and they can’t hear it. So make sure you get that bit right. They’re used for listening for different types of sounds. And with both of these, the bell and the diaphragm, the harder you press on the patient’s chest, the more you’re going to hear. And that’s basically it, so you got your ear tips, your ear tubes, this is just a piece of metal or aluminum. You’ve got your tube in, and get the diaphragm and bell. Now, chest auscultation is something you will do in some detail in the workshop, but basically what you’re doing is, you’re comparing left to right, and you’re listening for the different sounds in the lobes. So that’s not something we’re gonna cover in any detail here. And as I’ve said, you can also listen for the heart sounds, but again, we don’t do that in a massive amount of detail, because that really is more of an advanced skill.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this micro-lecture on the stethoscope. I look forward to engaging with you again shortly.

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