For school I would go with a Maxiscope. They have great sound quality and they come in bright colors so you KNOW who walked away with it and it is cheap enough that it is easily replaceable ($40 or so). Your stethoscope will take a beating as a student. I would not get a Littmann until after you graduate. I personally do not like the lightweight Littmanns. My opinion
I love my Littmann electronic stethoscope - at $300 expensive but worth it (overkill for what you need). The $50.00 lightweight Littmann is perfect for nursing school...apical heart rate, bowel sounds, air moving in lungs. For professional practice, I would only go electronic. You can hear EVERYTHING. By the way, I have never had an issue with a stethoscope being stolen. When I am not using my stethoscope, it stays in my scrub pants pocket. Always and without exception!
Upvote for Littmann Cardio III. My Master Cardiology grew legs after 4 years of excellent service, which I then replaced with a chocolate/bronze (read:SUPER OBVIOUS) Cardio III.
My advice - engraving only helps if you can get close enough to identify it as yours. My new scope has my name sharpie'd all over it in addition to the scope ID tag. I don't care about keeping it looking nice as much as I care about keeping it in my possession! Make it unique and it be less likely to walk away
I am graduating in a couple weeks and I have updated to a Littmann Cardiology III. It is fantastic! Sounds are so clear, especially compared with my Littmann Lightweight II SE that I used throughout nursing school. I like that the Cardiology III has adult and pediatric diaphragms. (Super convenient if you ever work ER). The pediatric diaphragm converts to a bell.
However, for school, I would recommend the Littmann Classic II SE at a minimum. This stethoscope is a quality scope without the cheap feeling of the Lightweight. You can buy the more expensive scope when you graduate and you wont have to worry (as much) about anyone stealing your stethoscope in middle of the semester!
I've tried my preceptor's Master Cardiology and it is truly awesome! It doesn't have a bell though, and your school may require a bell for health assessment class. The adult diaphragm is convertable to a pediatric diaphragm. It is about $50 more than the Cardiology III.
Whether you end up getting the Classic or the Cardiology III or Master Cardiology, I highly recommend getting a color other than black, burgundy, or navy. These colors are popular and attractive to people who may walk off with your stethoscope. Make sure you get a name tag or other unique identifier. If you get one of the cardiology scopes, you should also have your name engraved in addition to a name tag and colorful tubing.
As far as brands of stethoscopes are concerned, nobody beats Littmann and their warranty services!
I think the Littmann Classic II S.E. is perfect for nursing students. The price isn't too bad imo but you can at least hear with it. Cheaper stethoscopes do not have good acoustics. Same with the cheaper Littmanns, too...the Lightweight and the Classic have horrible acoustics. I would not recommend those to anybody. The Littmann Classic II S.E., however, delivers. I paid $80 for mine.
When I graduated I upgraded to the Littmann Cardiology III, which I LOVE. I can hear so well with it. It is not overkill for nursing practice but I think it is overkill to have one as a nursing student. They are more expensive, too. I paid $150 for mine.
I got the Littman Master Classic II in nursing school. Four years later - when I worked the floor, it was still my best friend. I replaced one of the plastic ear pieces. It lived in my work/clinicals bag when I was in school/employed as an assistant (we were expected to be able to take manual BPs if needed at work, and clinicals - yeah, we needed to have our stethescope). It stayed at work when I worked as an RN on an inpatient unit (locked in my locker) or kept with me. I always heard really well with my stethescope even very faint things, so I never saw the reason to buy the electronic amplified type. I can see why people like them, but I guess I was just as well off with what I was familiar with.
Littmann Master Classic II for nursing school is a good scope and will serve you well. I upgraded to a Littmann Cardiology III once I hit the floor just because I was afraid I wasn't hearing everything -- at 47, maybe my hearing is going. The Cardiology is superb but it's heavy, so I am not as comfortable wearing it around my neck. I have it tricked out with a little bracelet with my name on it and follow the docs around when they borrow it. I also have an Ultrascope, which is great, but I've broken the diaphragm off twice -- not very durable if you are a little rough with your stuff, which I am.
I also start nursing school in January and although the nursing department told students we could get whatever stethoscope we wanted (as long as it has a diaphragm and a bell), they highly recommended we get the Littman Cardiology III, or the best one we could afford. So for an early Christmas present, I asked my family for a pink Cardiology III with my name engraved.
Either the Littmann Classic II SE or Master Classic would be good choices.
I wouldn't get the higher-end Littmanns as a student because 1. steths do tend to walk away during clincials, 2. you don't need anything more powerful right now, and 3. once you start working, you can get the advanced steth best suited for your specialty.