November 20, 2016

Product Review | 3M™ Littmann® Electronic Stethoscope Model 3100/3200

I started nursing school in 2009. I passed state boards and became a registered nurse in 2011. During those times, I used various stethoscopes from multiple manufacturers and brands. As a nursing student, I had trouble hearing internal body sounds. Regardless of the location (lungs, heart or gastrointestinal tract), I would hear things at a whisper (at best). It was frustrating! While my classmates heard definitive rhonchi lung sounds, I heard diminished lung sounds or nothing on the very same patient. I was consistently charting decreased lung sounds because I could hear nothing. Now don't get me wrong, I, of course, heard cardiac and bowel sounds. But lung sounds eluded me. After six months of clinicals (and over $200 in random over-the-counter stethoscope purchases), I spoke to my professor about this problem, and she told me, "You have interacted with multiple patients, and you continually hear decreased lung sounds? Yeah Nacole, you need a better stethoscope." As a student, my stethoscope budget ranged between $15 to $30. I was your typically broke student trying to make ends meet. I couldn't spend a ton of money. It wasn't until I had a clinical on an intensive care floor that I found the real value of a quality stethoscope.

I was at my clinical, helping my instructor perform a head-to-toe assessment. I had left my stethoscope at home, and my instructor was kind enough to let me use his. It was the Littmann Master Cardiology model. Initially, I thought all stethoscopes were the same. I assumed you paid for the name only so, spending more than $30 for one was a huge scam. As soon as my instructor's stethoscope diaphragm hit my patient's chest, I became acutely aware of what a quality stethoscope provided. It wasn't about the name. It was about the performance. Littmann stethoscopes are tools that gave you the opportunity to assess with all your senses. The sounds were no longer whispers. They were punches in the face. Sounds were present, loud and eagerly awaited interpretation. I heard everything, every little peristalsis, every heart murmur. I heard them clearly. And thanks to Littmann, I helped catch flash pulmonary edema that day. Our patient recovered and that only happened because we found it early. The following day, I explained this benefit to my husband and we used a portion of our savings to buy me a Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope. Littman offers various stethoscope options with prices ranging from $40 to $400. There is a price point for every individual.

After graduation, I was hired on a very active progressive care floor. The patient population was boisterous, and I was interested in an electronic stethoscope that offered volume regulation. The Littmann Electronic Stethoscope Models 3100 and 3200 amplify sound up to 24x and reduce ambient sounds by 85%. I loved (and still love) this stethoscope (Model 3100). It has been with me for many, many years. It's been dropped, stepped on and left in a hot 95°F Florida car. It's always worked and never disappointed me. Every time I look at it, I see the faces of patients who were saved by its use. I now know how crucial a head-to-toe assessment is, particularly auscultation. I purchased the Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200 a few months ago because I wanted the Bluetooth recording option. If I need expert advice or interpretation, I now have the option of sending the sound bite to others. Same old Littmann. Same amazing, dependable quality! When my patients are screaming and yelling (which was often), I can still hear everything. The volume regulation is so impressive, I've even heard gastrointestinal sounds while listening to heart sounds. Yeah, the 3100 and 3200 models are that awesome! No machine or assignment will ever replace a head-to-toe assessment. It's the center of healthcare, and that center revolves around the stethoscope. For without a stethoscope, we are all just guessing. As a nursing student, guessing might be okay. You're learning, and another individual is usually confirming your findings. But when you're the sole bedside nurse caring for a critically ill patient, you can't leave things to chance. There ordinarily isn't someone confirming your findings (unless you ask). You are the start and end point. You are the frontline, you are the patient's advocate, and you need proper tools. I have many Littmann stethoscopes (as you can see). I've never regretted one purchase. Each one offers different components and performs beyond expectations. The electronic version is fantastic. I hear everything, quickly and promptly. The volume regulation has cut my auscultation time in half and allows me more time to perform other nursing tasks. Yes, Littmann stethoscopes aren't $15, but you get what you pay for, and that matters. Not being able to hear body sounds can be a matter of life and death. I need to hear. Therefore, I need Littmann. I'd recommend this brand to any nursing student or nurse who needs to hear body sounds, promptly and accurately. Oh, plus the onboard monitor displays the patient's heart rate. Great feature, amazing resource!

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