Naturally, stethoscopes for paramedics share features with other scope types, but the very best of them have a number of features that set them apart. They are lighter, for one, but it goes much deeper than that. A medical emergency situation is an especially traumatic work environment, which means that the stethoscope must stay out of the practitioner’s way as much as possible.
Paramedics and EMTs
Most people think that paramedics and EMTs are the same. In truth, their jobs do overlap, but paramedics require quite a bit more training and are allowed to provide a wider array of emergency procedures in the field. For instance, with the exception of emergency anaphylactic medications, EMTs are not allowed to conduct any procedure that involves breaking the skin. That means that something as simple as administering a shot must be done by a paramedic. Because paramedics take on more responsibility in the field, stethoscopes for paramedics need to be a bit more sophisticated than those for EMTs.
General Stethoscope Quality
All modern stethoscopes have certain features in common that allow for a standard of acoustic fidelity. For instance, all stethoscopes contain sealed tubing filled with air that allow sound waves to propagate from the bell or diaphragm to the wearer’s ear. However, not all tube designs are created equal. In general, thick tubing is better than standard tubing because it cancels out more background noise. Superior still is double-tubing. The second tube in this design acts as a buffer, cancelling out exterior noises. This design in particular is ideal for the paramedic who often works in noisy environments. Whenever possible, use a stethoscope that features latex-free tubing as both children and adults can be allergic to it.
A relatively new design tweak that is ideal for any practitioner who remains in the field for extended periods of time are silicon ear tips. These ear tips will mold slightly to the unique contours of your ear canal. This prevents pain and numbness after prolonged use.
A good stethoscope for use by paramedics will feature a hand-polished aluminum chestpiece. This chestpiece is lighter than those fashioned from stainless steel. While there isn’t a huge difference in terms of weight between the two, the lighter aluminum piece can make a difference during a long shift. The chestpiece should swivel, allowing you to switch from diaphragm to bell easily, and it should have an easily identifiable indicator that tells you at a glance which sound channel is active.
Preferably, however, you want a stethoscope that features an “ultra-thin” tunable diaphragm. The most advanced of these feature an integrated design that allows you to switch from bell to diaphragm simply by varying the amount of pressure you apply to the patient. These tunable diaphragms also provide superior acoustic fidelity in the low-frequency range compared to chestpieces that contain a distinct diaphragm and bell.
Metal headsets can drive the price of a stethoscope up. To combat this, you can go with a unit that provides all of the above features while offering a chrome-plated brass headset. The chrome provides an attractive finish while the brass keeps costs down. Some headsets come with adapters that provide protection from grabby children. These adapters will keep the ear tips in place if a child attempts to yank them out. Not only is this extremely uncomfortable, it can also cause damage to the sensitive ear canals.
Stethoscopes for Paramedics
When searching for stethoscopes for paramedics or EMTs, it is important to select a device that has an easy-to-grip chestpiece. Some stethoscopes come with a chestpiece that features a soft material on the outer edge. This makes it easier to grip and reduces chill. It’s also important that your scope has a headset that was designed with anatomy in mind. Many scopes use a generic headset design that causes them to pull down uncomfortably on the ears. Superior headsets, on the other hand, will support their own weight better, which in turn will allow you to wear them for longer periods of time at once.
If you want the absolute best in terms of design and performance, you’ll want to graduate to an electronic stethoscope. These digital devices feature sound sensors that reduce ambient noise and can pick up more sound frequencies, both high and low. This is the ideal for an ER environment.