Many learners often wonder whether to make the investment in an expensive stethoscope for nursing school. With so many different options and prices, it can be a difficult choice. Do you buy a cheap one now, and a nice one later? Or do you buy an expensive one now? Or do you buy an average one now and use it as a nurse? How much will you use it?


These questions and others can be sometimes difficult to answer broadly because of the different specialties in nursing, but we will do our best. We appreciate the help of our nursing faculty who helped answer some of those questions for us.


What level of stethoscope should I buy?


Karen Sincerbeaux, an instructor in our ADN program, said,  “I think having a good quality but not necessarily a cardiac stethoscope is the way to go for new learners. We want them to have the best opportunity to hear lung and heart sounds and bowel sounds but I don’t think they have to have to be the most expensive. The ultra inexpensive ones really are just a waste of money because often I’m letting them borrow mine.”


Buying an “ultra-inexpensive” one is a bad idea, but so is buying an ultra-expensive one. Although this hasn’t been a problem at Nightingale, some nurses from other states warned against buying expensive ones because they often get stolen.


What brands of stethoscopes are reliable?


Littmann is the main brand for stethoscopes, with models anywhere from 30 to 400 dollars.

MDF stethoscopes are often said to have better sound than a Littmann, however, they are more sturdy-built and heavier around the neck. Janet Ramos, an instructor in our ADN program said she uses Littmann. “I have two Littmanns that I paid about $100 each for and have had them for twenty years. They perform well.”


When should you buy a stethoscope?


Some nurses consider buying a cheap stethoscope for nursing school, and then purchasing a nice one when they become a nurse, but we advise buying a good quality one before nursing school, that way you are hearing the sounds properly as you learn. If you can’t hear the sounds properly in nursing school, you won’t know what to listen for when you have an upgraded scope.

Ramos also said that making the investment up front, just one time, is a good idea. Don’t wait to buy a nice one. “I would invest in a good one, absolutely,” said Ramos. “If you later go into a specialty (cardiology for example) you may want to get an amplified one at that time.  For now I wouldn’t spend an enormous amount, but would go for quality.”


Questions to ask yourself when buying a stethoscope:

  • Are you hard of hearing? You may need a more expensive stethoscope.
  • Is the device flashy? You don’t want your stethoscope to draw attention to itself, because it might get stolen.
  • Are you working in a busy hospital? In a busy environment, stethoscopes are sometimes misplaced, traded around, and forgotten, so you might not want to buy a really expensive one.
  • How does the weight feel around your neck? Is it too heavy? Make sure to lean over and wear it for a few minutes.
  • How does the tubing feel? Is it sticky on your skin, does it collect hair and lint? Does it stick to your hair and pull on it?
  • Is it dual-sided? Most stethoscopes these days are, but double check that you have both an adult and a pediatric side if you are going to be dealing with children.
  • Are the earpieces the right size for your ears? Do they fit correctly and not rub uncomfortably anywhere?


In the end, it’s not about how advanced your stethoscope is, but how well you are trained to listen. Our instructors do their very best to train you to be the best nurse you can be. A stethoscope is just a tool for you to get there!


We hope that these tips answer some of your questions about stethoscopes. If you have any other questions about nursing, what you need to start our nursing program, or your education experience at Nightingale, please contact Learner Advising and Life Resources.


Note: All Nightingale learners will be given a stethoscope in their nursing kits, so they don’t need to worry about buying one. This blog is for informational purposes only.