best stethoscopes for nurses


Nurses are often the first health professional contact a patient receives, and so a nurses initial assessment is paramount to the resulting investigations and treatment a patient receives. Doctors place great emphasis on nurse-led patient assessments, and auscultation is a key skill to master as part of these assessments. As nurses continues to gain experience through their career, the stethoscope plays an ever increasing important role in their patient assessments.  It is vital that nurses make a habit of auscultating with the stethoscope from early on in their training, with every patient encounter, as this is the quickest way to become familiar with normal health heart and lung sounds, so that abnormalities are recognised quickly.

Each nurse will quickly develop their own preferences when it comes to stethoscope auscultation. The best way to develop your own examination style and improve on ausculation skills, is to pick a suitable stethoscope early.

We’ve compiled a list of our best rated stethoscopes for nurses below. We’ve prioritised quality, durability, and practicality of these stethoscopes, suitable for the fast-paced and patient-focused environment nurses thrive in.

* Top Rated Stethoscopes for Nurses *

Editor's Rating
Littmann® Master Classic II Stethoscope

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★ Best Choice Overall ★

  • Best for experienced nurses, or nurses looking to develop auscultation skills

  • Suitable for all kinds of diagnostic physical assessments, including basic cardiac auscultation

  • Single-sided chestpiece allows for easy manoevering

  • Tunable diaphragm allows adjusting between high or low frequency sounds by via slight pressure on the chestpiece

  • Dual-Lumen tubing eliminates rubbing noises

5 Stars (5 / 5)
Littmann® Classic III

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  • Best for experienced nurses, or nurses looking to develop auscultation skills

  • Suitable for all kinds of diagnostic physical assessments, including basic cardiac auscultation

  • Two-sided chestpiece with tunable diaphragms on both adult and pediatric sides

  • Paediatric side can be converted to tradition open bell

  • Durable, latex-free tubing resistant to skin oils and alcohol

4.9 Stars (4.9 / 5)
Littmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope

  • Best all-rounder for price and versatility at this quality range

  • Suitable for all types of auscultation

  • Tunable diaphragm allows adjusting between high or low frequency sounds by via slight pressure on the chestpiece

  • Single Lumen tubing eliminates rubbing noises

  • Ideal for registered nurses and physician assistants

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Littmann® Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope

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★ Best Value for Budget ★

  • Ultra-lightweight at 4.2oz (118g) makes for comfortable every-day wearing

  • Leaf-shaped chestpiece allows easy positioning under blood pressure cuffs and around bandaging

  • Good for blood pressure and limited physical assessments
    Ideal for entry-level nursing assessments

  • Expect to need to upgrade to a better stethoscope as auscultation skills improve

  • May have difficulty hearing murmurs and bruits

4.3 Stars (4.3 / 5)
Littmann® Select Stethoscope

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  • Non-chill rim and diaphragm

  • Resilient tubing can be tightly folded into a pocket without damage

  • Good for blood pressure and limited physical assessments

  • Ideal for entry-level nursing assessments and nursing students

  • Expect to need to upgrade to a better stethoscope as auscultation skills improve

  • May have difficulty hearing murmurs and bruits

4 Stars (4 / 5)

So, you just want to get right to it and know what the top stethoscopes for nurses are.  Well, here you go…

Top Stethoscopes for Nurses:

  1. Littmann Classic II S.E.
  2. Littmann Lightweight
  3. Littmann Pediatric
  4. Littmann Master Classic
  5. Littmann Cardiology IV
  6. Littmann Master Cardiology

The Best Stethoscope for Nurses – A Basic Piece of Equipment in Nursing

We are familiar with the stethoscope because we all have had physical examinations.

As patients ourselves we have grown accustomed to health care providers listening to our hearts and lungs and stomachs.

We know how blood pressure is taken, but it takes more than a sphygmomanometer to get an accurate BP.

You have to have the stethoscope.

Our patients may not know the word “bruit,” but they do know when you are listening for sounds beyond typical cardiac, pulmonary, or intestinal sounds.

Those of us who are first-time parents are excited to hear the heartbeat of our baby before birth.

Now as a nursing professional, we find the stethoscope is our nursing instrument to monitor our patient and to get a glimpse of internal function by “listening in.”

You might be wondering:

What are my preferences?  Well… here they are.

1.  Personal Preferences: Yes, yours and not someone else.

The health care needs of our patients are important considerations in choosing our right stethoscope.

This is crazy…

Unfortunately, our personal preferences for this device are often overlooked until after our purchase.

We need to be proactive.

  1. The weight of the stethoscope may be significant for you, particularly when you consider that you will be carrying it around much of your practice day.
  2. Will it fit in your lab coat or your uniform and not wear holes in your pockets? The materials used in the stethoscope’s construction may limit your choices.
  3. Allergies to latex, nickel, and some plastics may require you to choose stethoscope models with hypoallergenic materials rather than standard instruments.
  4. Length and type of tubing are practical considerations, because in a real sense you want your stethoscope to be fitted to you and your ears.
  5. Your comfort during the whole work day is important—think 8 or 12 hour blocks of time.
  6. And don’t forget special applications. If you work in Peds, you may attach small toys to your stethoscope, so choose one that can take your attachments.
  7. If you must multitask with additional equipment, choose a stethoscope that will not get in the way of those other devices.

2.  Patient Preferences: It’s what we’re here for, right?

Stethoscope DiaphragmThe diaphragm can be awful cold to a patient’s skin.

Perhaps you need to choose a stethoscope which can be readily warmed in your hand before use on those cold mornings when the instrument has been awaiting your arrival in a chilled staff room.

Here’s the kicker…

Patients tolerate a lot, but choosing a device that will be comfortable for your patients while not compromising your medical duties is wise.

3.  Practice Preferences: It’s gotta work as hard as we do!

Where you practice your nursing skills will help you determine the kind of stethoscope you want for your practice.

With the multifaceted nature of nursing today, your nursing tools may require accommodation for specific applications.

These specialty areas may require specific instrumentation in patient care:

Place of care is just as important

4.  Good Features: These can make your day great or a very long one…

The matter of preferences can be overwhelming.

The good news is that there is a stethoscope suitable for you and your practice.

Make a list of preferences that matter for you, your patient, and your nursing setting or specialty.

So, let’s look at stethoscope instrumentation.

Stethoscope Components.

Nurses are familiar with indirect measures of function.

Labs let us know what is going on inside our patients.

Imaging allows us to see what is happening in our sick patients.

Xrays, CTs, PET scans, and MRIs. Sometimes in real time, reveal what is happening with our patients.

Your stethoscope is another noninvasive tool for knowing what is going on inside patients.

We get basic information about circulation, digestion, breathing, muscle activity (particularly the heart), even joint function, etc. when we use our stethoscope.

A functioning body produces sounds revealing its various activities.

With our stethoscope we can collect those sounds, listen to them, and make judgments about body function.

Here are the parts of a stethoscope and their functions.

Collection Mechanism.

The flat plate collector of sound for your stethoscope is called its “head.”

It may vary in size and shape to augment a specific sound spectrum.

The “single head” stethoscope is designed for taking vitals and checking lung function.

This head is tuned to the heart sounds.

The conventional “dual-head” stethoscope has a “diaphragm” side for collection of high frequency sounds and a “bell” side for collecting low frequency sounds.

“Tripple-head” stethoscopes collect additional bandwidth allowing critical evaluation of cardiac function. T

he head of the stethoscope will vary in size and weight, the single-head models being lighter than the triple-head models.

Transmission Mechanism.

Sounds collected by the flat plate head are typically transmitted acoustically.

A head with greater mass, e.g., steel versus aluminum, will exhibit more sound sensitivity for you the user. (Electronic models may transmit the sounds visually, on an amplified basis, or on a recorded basis.)

The stethoscope head is connected to your ear via flexible tubing coupled to a stiff binaural metal or plastic yoke ending with ear pieces for your pinnas.

Tubing may be made of rubber or plastic. The stiffer the tubing is, the more sound from the head reaching your ears.

Ear Pieces Part of Stethoscope Mechanism.

Stethoscope Ear TipsThe stethoscope mechanism ends with stock plastic or rubber ear tips.

These may be customized by an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser with earmold expertise.

For a nurse with irregular pinna/concha structures, customizing the ear tips will provide comfort and better sound quality.

Cerumen and perspiration are very hard on rubber and plastics resulting in the need for ear tip replacement with time.

The chemicals necessary to make plastic soft evaporate with time, also bringing a need for replacement.

You need not replace your stethoscope when rubber or plastic parts fail because they are readily replaced.

5.  Configuration Options for the Best Stethoscope for Nurses.

Nursing specialties have been arbitrarily assigned to several categories for stethoscope recommendation purposes.

You as a nurse may fill only one of these roles or multiple roles in the course of your nursing practice.

Stethoscopes for Students.

Training institutions typically specify instrumentation to be used by their students.

Students are best served by purchasing stethoscopes recommended by their instructors.

“Cheaper is not better” is true when it comes to technology, even when looking at replacement on a short-term basis.

Sound quality may be compromised in “economically” priced instrumentation.

“Used” may be acceptable as long as an instrument meets specifications of instructors and stethoscope components are reasonably flexible and not cracked.

Avoid the “ten dollar specials.”

The Littman Lightweight II S.E. by 3M is a light-weight stethoscope suitable for entry-level nursing practitioners. Click here for more details.

It is fully capable of giving you the ability to generate accurate BPs and provide appropriate data for your basic PEs.

The head is double-sided, yet sufficiently sized to fit beneath a BP cuff.

The head is tunable by altering head pressure.

If you are latex-sensitive, this is a good choice because it has no natural rubber in it.

Many health care professionals continue to use this stethoscope throughout their careers.

There are two recommendations for the best stethoscope for nursing students.  The lightweight option click here and for the mainstay option, which is the Littmann Classic II – click here to learn more about it.

Stethoscopes for General Practice Nursing.

Many advocate the Littmann Classic II S.E. stethoscope by 3M because of its sound quality, serviceability, and longevity.

If it is purchased as a student, this stethoscope will provide you with a basic tool for your practice throughout your career.

It is sufficient for many nursing applications beyond the basics. Pricing ranges from $42.99 to $85.90+ on today’s internet.

There is a three-year warranty.

If you need to have a higher acoustic qualities, the Littmann Master Classic will do the job. Check it out here.  It’s considered a step up from the Classic II SE but not the top of the line.

If you need one of the highest sound qualities, the Master Cardiology or the Cardiology III will fit your needs.

Stethoscopes for Pediatrics.

Pediatric StethoscopePediatric stethoscopes differ from general practice instrumentation primarily in head piece size.

The head is contoured and will be about an inch in diameter (three quarters of an inch for infants).

It may come with toy-motifs to make the device less intimidating to children.

The 3M™ Littmann® Classic II Infant Stethoscope works well with the littlest patient.  It’s because the head is suitable for infants, acoustic quality is good, and ear tips seal out extraneous noise.

Materials used in its construction resist aging.

Today’s internet pricing ranges from $79.99 to $115.00+. It carries a three-year warranty.

The 3M™ Littmann® Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope has a design for longevity.

Its head is suitable for use with the general pediatric population in size and contour and feel (not “cold”).

Acoustic performance is delivered through comfortable ear tips which eliminate ambient background noise.

Pricing ranges from $67.00 to $102.89+ at this time. It carries a three year warranty.

(A variety of pediatric stethoscopes ranging from less than $5.00 to the mid-$30.00 range are readily available on the internet. Objective evaluation of the gadgetry is generally unavailable. Purchase of such devices may risk your professional reputation should they fail in the middle of your nursing tasks.)

Stethoscopes for Cardiology Nursing.

Here’s the deal:

Stethoscopes for cardiology are also useful for practices encountering…

Littmann StethoscopeThe need of nursing is to “hear” what is barely there, hearing the full frequency spectrum available.

The ability to hear when competing against ambient noise is present is an extra consideration when patients are seen in non-clinical settings.

The Littmann Cardiology IV and Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscopes provide high performance without electronics.

The diaphragms in their heads are tunable and are sized for both Peds and adults.

The Master version has a single-sided head with a special procedures adapter to allow additional concomitant evaluations.

Use of double tubing precludes interference from background noise during assessments.

The warranties are exceptional, five-year and seven-year respectively.

Internet pricing ranges for the two stethoscopes varies from $154.51 to $182.94+ (Cardiology III) and from $178.65 to $224.76+ (Master).

Amplified Stethoscopes.

Many of us have some degree of hearing loss.

When we age we lose our inner ear hair cell sensitivity. It is called “prebycusis.”

Many stethoscopes will provide sufficient sound quality for a nurse to do an accurate BP or pulmonary analysis.

When our hearing loss is moderate, we have some alternatives.

Nurses with some degree of hearing loss can still function well in their profession with a stethoscope that amplifies the sounds picked up by the head of their stethoscope.

The amplified mechanism may be a simple add-on where the stethoscope tubing is cut and the amplifier is placed in the tubing.

Or, it may be an integral component of the stethoscope, actually incorporated into its head or yoke.

The Thinklabs One is a powerful amplified electronic stethoscope. Check it out here.

Another is the Littmann Electronic Stethoscope on first use may appear lighter than many stethoscopes.

Its stainless steel head is easy to use with the same techniques used with standard stethoscopes.

Amplification controls (volume and frequency) are on the head of the device, making it “tunable” to your nursing needs.

A USB-type plug allows interface of stethoscope with headphones or PC or recording device.

For itinerant nursing applications, this instrument would be functional with telemedicine. It would aid in the documentation of electronic medical records.

Instrument head accessories allow evaluation of Peds or geriatrics by switching diaphragms.

It uses one commonly-available AAA battery and the instrument shuts itself off to save battery life.

Today’s internet pricing ranges from $313.48 to $401.96+.



Top Stethoscopes for Nurses:

  1. Littmann Pediatric
  2. Littmann Infant
  3. Littmann Lightweight
  4. Littmann Classic II S.E.
  5. Littmann Master Classic
  6. Littmann Cardiology IV
  7. Littmann Master Cardiology

Making decisions:  Easier said than done!

To compare the different stethoscopes for Nurses, simply click and hold on the name of the stethoscope you wish to compare while dragging it to a spot.

Some great information will populate as well as a picture.  There are two tabs at the bottom of each, one to view the price and the other to see our full review.  Check it out now, it’s a pretty cool tool just for you!

Best Stethoscope for Nurses

Name/Image: Brand:Origin:Weight:Length:Warranty:Rating:




  • Littmann Classic II Pediatric StethoscpoeLittmann Classic II Pediatric Stethoscpoe
  • Littmann Classic II Infant StethoscopeLittmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope
  • Littmann Lightweight II SE StethoscopeLittmann Lightweight II SE Stethoscope
  • Littmann Classic II S.E. StethoscopeLittmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope
  • Littmann Master Classic II Littmann Master Classic II
  • Littmann Stethoscope Cardiology IIILittmann Stethoscope Cardiology III
  • Littmann Master Cardiology StethoscopeLittmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope
Littmann Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope Review

Littmann Classic II Pediatric Stethoscpoe

LittmannU.S.A.3.8 ounces28 inches3 years4.5 Star Average Rating view pricefull review
Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope Review

Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope

LittmannU.S.A.3.4 ounces28 inches3 years4.5 Star Average Rating view pricefull review
Littmann Lightweight ii SE Stethoscope Review

Littmann Lightweight II SE Stethoscope

LittmannU.S.A.1.9 ounces28 inches2 years4.5 Star Average Rating view pricefull review
Littmann Classic II Stethoscope Review

Littmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope

LittmannU.S.A.11.2 ounces28 inches3 years4.5 Star Average Rating view pricefull review
Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope Review

Littmann Master Classic II

LittmannU.S.A.5.7 ounces27 inches3 years4.5 Star Average Rating view pricefull review
Littmann Stethoscope Cardiology III Review

Littmann Stethoscope Cardiology III

LittmannU.S.A.13.6 ounces27"5 years4.5 Star Average Rating view pricefull review
Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope Review

Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope

LittmannU.S.A.6.6 ounces27 inches7 years5 Star Average Rating view pricefull review

What’s the bottom line…

As a health care provider, think in terms of what you do, what you need to do it, and then get the right tool for that job.

“Good” is getting your nursing job done well.

The right stethoscope for your job will be “good.”

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