What in fact does a nurse use a stethoscope for?

Daytime television isn’t historically the best place to educate thyself, but isn’t this “The View” moment a great opportunity to explain to our patients what we do as nurses?

So far as I can tell, a lot of everything pretty much everywhere. “Nurse” covers a heap of credentials, too. It may be the CNA or Certified Nursing Assistant who takes your vitals (may use stethoscope!) and assists you in getting fed and staying clean and comfortable in the hospital. It could be the RN or Registered Nurse who dresses your wounds, asks about your pain, listens to your lungs, and behind the scenes communicates how you’re doing to the doctor– including a recommendation for action–and, god love him or her, gets you that pain med you desperately need. And you know what? It may be that the RN who asks about your pain is communicating with an APRN or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse instead of a doctor to get you the proper medicine (Nurse Practitioners, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, and Certified Nurse Midwives fall under the APRN heading and may prescribe medication).

The funny thing about a nurse is that no matter what their title/education/credentials, if it’s within scope of practice, they will take care of patient needs. I’ve seen APRNs change soiled beds. I get care from an NP who has spent hours corralling my records from various specialists in various health systems. (She waited on hold with patient records for me. I love her.) Does the patient need it to receive quality care? Is anyone else taking care of it? Nurses are get it done people.The pros and cons of weakly defined roles and challenges of delegation are a topic for another day. One with less post-surgical morphine, perhaps.

I actually got a cardiologist’s stethoscope for graduation. I’m fancy. When I planned on working in a Neuro Intensive Care Unit I knew it would be useful for my newbie ears when it came to hearing bruits in patients’ carotid arteries. When I start work as a community nurse visiting homes of pregnant women, one thing I’ll use it for is getting an accurate blood pressure to check for signs of preeclampsia. Early detection of high blood pressure in a pregnant woman can save her life and the life of her baby, so I best show up with my tools. She depends on me. Her doctor or midwife does too.

I use a stethoscope since it’s a valuable part of the medical trade. Just like me. Simple as that, really.