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Patient Care, Technology

Listening to the stethoscope's vitals

p013296.jpg“What will happen to bookshelves?”, bibliophiles lamented with the ascent of the e-book, mourning the loss of the feel of paper pages between their fingers and the smell of rich mahogany encasing their many leather-bound books. Now, physicians may be wondering the same thing about stethoscopes. As ultrasound machines become smaller, cheaper and more portable, a recent BMJ article notes, some doctors propose that point-of-care scans may replace the stethoscope as “the symbol of the profession.”

In a BMJ blog post responding to the original article, Rhy Davies, a medical student at Imperial College London, writes an “Ode to a stethoscope” summarizing the history of the instrument, its medical pros and cons and the meanings it embodies. He writes:

And can you boldly stride into the hospital canteen with an ultrasound device the way you can with a stethoscope? Slung around the neck, it declares to the world that, yes, everything will be fine now that the medical student is here. (Actually, that’s infuriating. Can we all agree to stop doing that?)

Lastly, what of one of the greatest uses of the stethoscope? In a hectic emergency room or a busy GP surgery, when the earbuds go in and the diaphragm is laid meaningfully on the chest, the stethoscope ferries the doctor or student to that quiet mental space…..what will become of that little space where the doctor or student can synthesise, diagnose, and reflect? Will the next generation of ultrasounds have an app for that?

Previously: Med school friendships from classroom to clinicsThe OMG Factor: Curbing your enthusiasm during clinical rotations and Students design special stethoscope for use in space, noisy places
Photo by PhotosNormandie

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