Do I Wear a Stethoscope? Yep. Do I Know How to Use it? Nope

Research shows a whole ton of new doctors can’t even distinguish abnormal heart sounds. Really.

Duh . . . what is this for?

Duh . . . what’s this thingy for?

I don't know. But mine's blue. Is that important?

I don’t know. But mine’s blue. Is that significant?


So we now learn it is probable that thousands of modern-day doctors likely do not have the skills to discern heart problems by using their stethoscopes. This revelation comes from The Journal of the American Medical Association – JAMA –a theme issue on medical education.

Can't hear a thing with it. But Damn! I look good.

Can’t hear a thing with it. But Damn! I look good

It seems that two researchers at Allegaheny University of Health Sciences in Philadelphia – Doctors Salvatore Mangione and Linda  Nieman – performed stethoscope ability evaluations on more than 450 medical students in their critical, skill-building  years. The goal was to determine if these men and women – currently in the advanced training stages – could differentiate 12 different cardiac problems by using their stethoscopes, as they would certainly be called upon to do, following graduation.

They were given a full 90 seconds to listen and were even allowed to listen yet again if needed.

Nobody involved with the test was very happy with the findings.

Because what this simple study revealed is that on average, advanced medical students in the specialty areas of internal medicine and family practice, were not able to recognize 80% of the most common heart problems, that ought to be easily diagnosed through the stethoscope.

Just as ugly, the research showed med students were not improving significantly from their first year in training, even through residency.

Doctors Mangione and Nieman called the number of residents that were competent, “disturbingly low.”

Doctor Howard Weitz, a cardiologist who is indeed stethoscope competent, blames modern, high-tech tests. “Veteran physicians themselves are not becoming proficient at this skill. Then, they pass on to new generations of student-doctors the notion that listening to the heart through the stethoscope is not a skill worth honing.”

He goes on to say this: “For many, the device slung around your neck has become totally useless.”

Here’s another article discussing this stupefying turn of events:

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Well, that certainly makes us feel better about the direction of health care


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