I always thought there would be a definitive moment that I’d get my first stethoscope. I’ve never been one to jump the gun so I didn’t buy a stethoscope the moment I got into medical school. Most people don’t have one when they start medical school. I remember midway into first year, in one of our clinical skills sessions, one of the tutors asked who’s got their own stethoscope and nobody did. The tutor was a bit shocked and told us all we’d need one soon and that sparked a conversation on how we all thought there’d be a time that we’d be told by the medical school now’s the time to get your stethoscope, or this is the stethoscope that you should be buying or maybe there’d be a fair in which we’d all have to buy our stethoscopes.
“So you all expected some sort of stethoscope awarding ceremony?” the tutor joked and weirdly everyone’s response was no, but yes.
In years 1 and 2, you can borrow stethoscopes from the medical school. In sessions that we need them, such as in those that we’re practising physical examination there are plenty of stethoscopes mulling around and you’re free to pick one out, give it a clean with an alcohol wipe and use it. You defintely don’t need a stethoscope in those 2 years, even in our OSCEs we aren’t allowed to use our own, but have to use the stethoscopes provided by the medical school. Had I specifically gone out to get one during my pre-clinical years I would have worried whether I was getting ahead of myself and whether I’d even make it to the clinical years. At the end of year 2 though you are told (in passing, mind you) that if you don’t have one you need to get a stethoscope to start 3rd year – and suppose that was the mildly distinct moment we were waitinh for.
Everybody says Littmann is the brand to go for when choosing a stethoscope so I imagined picking my own Littmann when the time came for my first stethoscope. But…in reality the first stethoscope I owned was one of those single-use stethoscopes. You know, those very cheap lightweight ones. I went to the annual Medlink conference when I was in Year 10 and everybody who attended was given one of those. I took it home and it’s stayed tucked away in a drawer ever since and I payed no attention to it. This wasn’t really a proper stethoscope so I couldn’t really regard it as my first.
Next, when I was in Year 12 I attended the 5-day Medlink residential and again we were given a stethoscope to take away at the end of it. This one was possibly, slightly better than the one before, with a dual tube and all. Again, it was tucked away with no intention of being used.
In my second year of medical school I was contacted by Erka who wanted to send me their stethoscopes to try out and share on my instagram. So there I accumulated another 2: a ceil blue and a peachy pink. These feel great, they are real stethoscopes (if you get what I mean). I obviously listened to my own heartbeat and a few of my family, but I never had to actually use them because as I said earlier, in first and second year you absolutely do not need your own stethoscope. We only had 1 opportunity to use a stethoscope on a real patient and that was on a hospital visit where we practised taking blood pressure from real patients – we had to use stethoscopes provided by the hospital.
And the story continues as just as I finished my second year I was contacted by another company, Fricare, who provide a cheaper stethoscope for students. They wanted me to send me their stethoscope for me to review again, so there went a 5th stethoscope added to my collection. Fricare’s stethoscope felt very lightweight, a bit cheaper than Erka, but still real unlike the ones from Medlink (if you know what I mean).
And then we’ve come to now, just before starting clinical years, the moment I thought I’d be adding my first stethoscope to my drawer. I was asked whether I wanted to buy a stethoscope for next year and I said yes. Weirdly, I still felt as though I hadn’t got my first and I still didn’t own a Littmann as I wanted. I went ahead and chose my colour and my uncle bought it for me as a gift: black with a champagne finish, I wanted the standard black but with that very subtle touch of difference. I chose the colour, the brand and my name was engraved on it making it really feel it was actually mine. So technically, my 6th stethoscope was my first. What is it that makes this one the one I will regard as my first? Is it the fact that this is the one I chose? Or this was the Littmann? Or perhaps that this is the first stethoscope I intend to use on real patients when I begin third year?
Have any of you got hold of your first stethoscope yet? What did you choose?