How do I choose a stethoscope? Please help!

Nurses General Nursing


Hi! I am a new nursing student, and I have to buy a stethoscope. I really don't know what to look for...there are just so many choices. What brand is best? What length should I use? Is latex free better than the others? I would prefer to buy a nursing kit with the BP cuff, but I can buy them separately.

If anyone has any advice or opinions, I would greatly appreciate it!!




296 Posts

I personally use and recommend the Littman Cardiology III. You can buy them from 3-M's web site. You can hear EVERYTHING with them. Their acoustics are great.

Good luck with school.


294 Posts

For my use I agree with Tim- I love my littman and the acoustics are far superior to anything I've compared them to.

But the littmans are expensive- the cardiology scope runs over $150. I think a student wouldn't benefit from the advanced acoustics at this stage.

On those days when my scope stayed in the car I have borrowed someones basic $20 sprague scope and found it decent.

If you have the option of latex free I would go for it- why risk sensitizing yourself more than you have to? And for when you have a sensitive patient, the scope will be better than the cheesy ones hospitals provide.

Midrange ($65 - $80) there are the littman classic 2's and the ultrascopes- both decent routine use scopes if you're looking for more than a sprague. Personally, I'd say go cheap first until you get used to keeping track of it. smile.gif


7 Posts

I prefer the Littmann brand also. They have many styles and price ranges, but I have found that a single diaphram is easier to use at first than a double bell. The earpieces fit almost anyone comfortably and they are light. I like the longer length, even though common thought is that you can hear more with the short ones, you also have to get alot closer to the pt-- which has it's advantages and disadvantages as you can imagine.

Good luck!


22 Posts

Thank you all SO much for your advice/opinions. I think I will go with a Littmann is just about everyone's favorite brand. I really appreciate all of your input and time to post!



68 Posts

If money isn't an issue, go for the best. When I was a student, though, I was dirt poor and heard great through my $15 Sprague. It wasn't until I had a little money in my pocket that the Sprague became unbearably yucky and I invested in one worthy of having my name engraved.


186 Posts

I have a Littman that I bought for about $68. My question is should I buy a more advanced Littman after graduation (like a cardiology) or is there not much difference? I might even ask for one for a graduation gift if it is worth the money smile.gif



"The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it."-Johan Ruskin


7 Posts

Unless you plan to go into a specialty like NICU or some cardiac specialty your present $68 will probably be more than adequate if you are using it without any problems so far.

prmenrs, RN

4,565 Posts

Specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

My NICU stethoscope cost

If I were going to CCU or MICU, I'd get an expensive one, but otherwise, no. And I'd make sure I was going to absolutely love it, first. Don't forget to include that in your income tax itemizations for uniforms, etc.

[This message has been edited by prmenrs (edited February 02, 2001).]

Jenny P

1,164 Posts

Specializes in CV-ICU.

When you buy a stethescope, cut the tubing so it is only 18 to 20 inches long. The longer the tubing, the worse the sound. I would buy one with both a bell and a diaphragm; the heavier chest piece also has better sound. I agree that if you go into cardiology, you need a better stethescope, but the mid-range Littman should be fine for almost anything else. If you buy a stethescope with just the diaphragm, you will never play with it and train your ears to hear abnormal sounds. And the same holds true for one with too light of a chest piece. I have had stethescopes "walk away" before, and it really feels awful to lose an expensive one, but the $68 ones won't break your budget to replace them. (I do have the Littman Cardiology III myself, but I work in CVICU). By the way, if the ear pieces don't feel right in you ears, the tubing can be gently bent up or down if your ears are lopsided, and there are 3 or 4 different types of ear pieces, so make sure you do find some that are comfortable. Using a stethescope cover will prolong the life of the tubing and covers can be used over your own stethescope around latex sensitive patients.


38 Posts

Hi,,,,,I would buy a 20$ stethoscope....reason being....unless your going to be working in critical care......the times I lost, misplaced, or lent to someone......and never seen again are in that event try a cheaper stethoscope first...they work well.....Denise



346 Posts

I bought a sprague rappaport and one day the head just fell off. So I bought another one and the same thing happened. I decided that if I was going to spend X amount of $ every time I turned around I would just go ahead and invest in a Littman - bought the Cardiology II and it was great until it sprouted legs 7 years later. So I bought a Littman lightweight for about $50 and couldn't even hear a blood pressure through it - and lung sounds? forget it! So through my workplace and payroll deduction I bought a Littman Master Cardiology for about $127 and it was the best investment I could have made.

Go ahead and get a good one that will last you for years and take good care of it. You're going to eventually have to spend the money anyway. Get one you can hear well through and that will last.

Best of luck


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