I’m going to answer the question below about stethoscopes and whether or not nurses use them or if it’s just doctors that use them.

I was watching a re-run of a talk show and it gave me the impression that only doctors use stethoscopes but I thought nurses use them also. 

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Do Nurses Use Stethoscopes? 

Nurses use stethoscopes to assess patient condition to make sure the patient is getting the most appropriate treatment and that the patient is responding appropriately to interventions as ordered by a physician.

Stethoscopes are a standard tool in the arsenal of most healthcare professionals. They’re pivotal in the diagnosing of patient conditions leading to effective treatment intervention.

Stethoscopes are more commonly associated with doctors, but nurses do use them. 

If you were wondering, that talk show referenced in the question above is from an episode of a talk show called The View.

In that particular episode, after watching a monologue, one of the hosts made a reference about “why does she have a doctor’s stethoscope,” giving a false impression that doctors are the only healthcare workers that use a stethoscope.

FYI, there’s a lot of other professions that use stethoscopes not just physicians and nurses.

Here’s a clip from that show.

Why Do Nurses Use Stethoscopes

Here are some of the use cases for stethoscopes. 

1. To Listen to Heart Sounds

Listening to heart sounds is probably the most common use case for stethoscopes. 

Stethoscopes can help with diagnosing irregular heart sounds like heart murmurs. Nurses also use stethoscopes to monitor patients and make sure interventions related to the heart are working. 

2. To Listen to Lung Sounds

Nurses and doctors use stethoscopes to listen to your lung sounds. More specifically, they’re checking to see how airflow is flowing through your trachea and bronchial tree.

lung parts that are labeled

3. Listening to Bowel Sounds

Another common use case for stethoscopes is to listen to bowel sounds.

For example, absent bowel sounds may be an indication of ileus or peritonitis. A hyperactive bowel sound may mean there’s an intestinal obstruction or gastrointestinal hypermotility.

4. For Manual Blood Pressure

Another use case that’s not as common but still done is to check your blood pressure manually. Nowadays, machines taking automatic blood pressures have gotten much better and are the preferred method in most cases.

Occasionally for various reasons, nurses will have to get a manual blood pressure. If you don’t know what I mean or you’ve never seen a manual blood pressure done, check out the video below.

How Often Do Nurses Use Stethoscopes?

A nurse in a high acuity unit such as the ICU could easily use their stethoscope once or twice per hour. In less acute units, nurses may only use their stethoscopes a handful of times a shift, if at all. How often a nurse uses their stethoscope is strictly dependent on the acuity of their patients.

Recommended Stethoscopes

If you’re on the lookout for a good stethoscope, here’s a list of my two favorite stethoscopes.

1. Best Overall: Littmann Cardiology IV

3M Littmann Cardiology IV Diagnostic Stethoscope
A good option for any healthcare professional.

One of my favorite stethoscopes and one of the best unless you’re going for an electronic stethoscope is the Littmann Cardiology IV.

Superior build quality makes auscultating patient lung and heart sounds so much easier. It’s a premium stethoscope that unfortunately, comes at a premium price.

2. Best Budget: Littmann Class III

3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope
A good option for nurses or nursing students on a budget.

This stethoscope is a good all-around stethoscope. It’s a nice introductory stethoscope I typically recommend to nursing students or nurses on a budget and just need something to get themselves started.

Related: 10 Best Stethoscopes for Nurses

Nurses Everywhere Use Stethoscopes

As you hopefully have a stethoscope is an important tool in any nurse’s tool belt. Let me know in the comment section below if you have any questions. Don’t forget to check out some of our other articles.

Have You Read These Yet? 

Frequently Asked Questions

Nurses everywhere use stethoscopes, and that includes nurses in the United Kingdom. 

While some facilities may provide a stethoscope for nurses to use they’re usually cheap and not very good. That’s why in most situations nurses are going to use their own stethoscope. The exception is going to be for patients who are in isolation precautions. 

Psychiatric nurses do use stethoscopes though not as frequently as nurses in more medical-focused units. 

Depending on the facility, the certification of the nursing assistant, and their job duty they may need to use a stethoscope as part of their job role. 

Many nurses do wear stethoscopes around their neck. This is despite the fact that it’s been discouraged for various safety and health reasons. 

Nurses wear their stethoscope around their neck primarily because it’s a convenient place to put the stethoscope so it’s out of the way while still being accessible when you need it.

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