New Year, New Scope? When It's Time to Replace Your Stethoscope
There is a certain feeling of excitement when you get your first stethoscope, and it can be hard to give it up when it is worn out. Whether it is your first stethoscope or your dozenth, they all need to be replaced eventually.
The start of a new year is a great time to replace all of the tools of your trade, including this one.
The average lifespan of a well-cared for stethoscope is about two years, but with heavy use and abuse, that durability diminishes. Nurses of all skill levels and ranks will find that they need to replace their stethoscope much more often, sometimes within a year or less.
There are a few things you can do to prolong the life of your stethoscope, and there are parts/kits available to make minor repairs. However, if you use your medical tools daily, you should consider replacement rather than repair.
Keep an eye on the condition of your stethoscope and be ready to replace it if you don’t have a spare. Here are a few of the signs that you should replace your stethoscope sooner rather than later.
Worn out or hardened tubing
Like any tubing, the connecting pieces of your stethoscope will wear out over time. With heavy daily use, this tubing can become less flexible, hardened, or brittle. As soon as you notice a decrease in the flexibility of your tubing, it is time to start thinking about a replacement.
Draping the stethoscope around your neck, as many healthcare professionals do, exposes the tubing to almost constant friction against the back of the neck or shirt collar. As a result, body oils can break down the PVC tubing.
If you leave your stethoscope out in the sun on a frequent or daily basis, perhaps by keeping it slung over the rearview mirror in your car, that solar exposure will break down the PVC tubing much more quickly.
You might not be aware of all of the options and features you can get with today’s stethoscopes, especially if you haven’t bought a new one in quite a while.
New single piece diaphragms combined with improved PVC tubing leads to improved acoustic capabilities in more recent models. This improved PVC tubing is also more resilient against oils and friction than its predecessors.
Meanwhile, improvements to the ear pieces and diaphragm have also led to superior noise cancellation. That can be important if you are working in an environment with a lot of background noise, like nursing homes, ERs, and urgent care clinics.
Cracked chest piece
The diaphragm, also called the chestpiece, can become cracked or otherwise damaged. Even less obvious or hidden cracks can ruin a stethoscope completely. It is a good idea to have spares.
You will know that the chest piece has cracked when the sound quality suddenly fails or deteriorates dramatically. Tears and cracks in the tubing are more common, but the diaphragm can also get cracked if it makes contact with hard surfaces.
Ready for a change
While it is important for all healthcare professionals to have a functional stethoscope, Medical Assistants or healthcare professionals in training don’t necessarily need the fanciest model available. It pays to get a more affordable stethoscope when you first start out, but as your career advances, so should your stethoscope.
You can celebrate the next stage of your career by getting a new stethoscope engraved with your name and new credentials, but there is no need to wait. If you see others in your department getting the latest stethoscope models, there is nothing wrong with jumping on board for a newer, fancier stethoscope.