Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Stethoscope Sellout

A scan of my battle scarred, trusty Tycos stethoscope.
No, I don't have one of those new-fangled telephones
that takes a  picture to post on the computer..

My initial excitement soon subsided after reading a blog post about stethoscopes. An important nursing symbol and vital tool of the trade was reduced to a laundry list of currently available stethoscopes along with their prices listed in USD. Christmas is not the only thing that can be reduced to nothingness by crass commercialization. There is a heck of a lot more to talk about stethoscopes  than the current products available from Chinese sweat shops. No wonder people in some foreign countries hate us. How would you like to sit and polish stethoscope bells for the measly sum of 45 cents per hour?

 My all time favorite stethoscope was a Tycos combination model and I spent many happy hours auscultating with  my eyes glued to the back of the diaphragm housing  that proudly proclaimed "Made in Asheville NC." Gazing  at the proud proclamation of manufacturing location seemed to make heart sounds more distinct, I bet those North Carolinians are nice folks. They certainly produced a mighty fine stethoscope back in the 1960's.

I used to wear my Tycos draped around my neck with the earpieces on the left and the bell on the right and now my stethoscope  has a permanently induced  curve to it just like Princess  Leia's buns. Here is a tip for you whippersnapperns; occasionally  change the direction of dangle  from left to right as your stethoscope hangs atound your neck to avert that nasty permanent curvature  problem.

The tubing on my old Tycos scope had a nice supple, almost slippery feel to it. One night while feverishly hanging units of packed cells, I discovered a new use for  my stethoscope. Each unit of blood was supplied with little stickers that provided the identification number of the unit. All I had to do was place the ID stickers anywhere on the stethoscoupe tubing and it was temporarily stuck there until I had a break in the action and could apply them to the chart. That stethoscope tubing was the medical equivalent of sticky note adhesive - it was the perfect parking spot for any type of sticker which could be removed later for the chart. A present day application for this nifty feature might be if your drug seeking patient claims an allergy to an NSID, just make out the allergy sticker and plaster it to your stethoscope until the moment of truth arrives.

Yesterday's nurses were experts at using whatever was available to meet a patient's needs. One of my class mates was working as a school nurse when a young student collapsed with a tongue swollen so acutely that it occluded the airway. No problem for this Macgiver style nurse as she quickly cut a length of tubing from her handy dandy stethoscope and deftly inserted  the lifesaving tube intranasally to bypass the occluding tongue and establish an airway. To prevent the distal end of the nasal airway stethoscope tube  from advancing too far into the nose, she fashioned a safety pin stop.
The kid was gas exchanging like a marathon runner. At the hospital, the nasal airway was swapped for a naso tracheal tube and after steroids and Benadryl, the youngster lived happily ever after.

There is so much more to stethoscope stories than a listing of their prices.


  1. I love/d my 'scope! Another piece of equipment I loved were hemostats... forget those useless bandage scissors; get yourself some stats!

  2. Amen to that and needle holders are even better. If you rip one of those handy dandy ring can openers off and the lid stays put, a stat or needle holder makes quick work of ripping that lid off the can. They also work well as mini clamps when gluing. Every household needs a hemostat.

  3. An interesting stethoscope histhttps://historian.nursing.upenn.edu/2016/05/12/in-honor-of-nurses-week-the-stethoscope-a-tool-of-nurses-trade-since-the-1930s/#more-984ory1

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  5. http://debbythenurse.blogspot.comFebruary 1, 2017 at 6:01 PM

    I am amazed that bloggers writing posts about stethoscope and scrubs made it onto the 100 best blog lists published by numerous nursing sites. And yet, not a single one of those lists included your blog, Old FoolRN. I prefer your brand of 'foolishness' to their drivel, any day.