Does Your Doctor Listen with Stethoscope Over Your Clothes?

Does your doctor or nurse listen to your lungs, heart or abdomen by placing their stethoscope over 1, 2 or more layers of clothes?

This is a pet peeve of mine, because I know I don’t hear as clearly when my patients have even a light weight t-shirt on. It bothers me so much, that I always pull up my top or remove clothing over the area they are about to listen to. And yes, the doctor/nurse almost always smiles in a smirky sort of way, or tells me that’s not necessary. (BTW I’ve never seen a physician or nurse cleanse the bell of their stethoscope before or after using, either.)

I know I want my health care provider to have the best chance at making an accurate assessment when I seek care. With accurate assessment, comes accurate findings to put together into the correct treatment plan. Right?

While we’re on the subject of accurate assessment, have you had someone take your blood pressure manually, done so quickly that it was off from your normal range? This has happened numerous times to me. My blood pressure is usually on the low side, but if the taker opens the valve a little too much, causing the air to be released too quickly, they will gather an inaccurate measurement. I always can tell, because it’s usually found to be 10 – 15 points higher than normal. I will ask for them to repeat it “because I’m usually not that high”. The second reading is most often found to be more accurate because they’ve released the air more slowly, and can hear the exact time when the sound of your pulse can be heard (systolic blood pressure) and when it disappears on the lower end (diastolic blood pressure).

Both, listening to your chest and abdomen and blood pressure measurements, are values that may change with sickness or age. It’s important to make sure they are done accurately. If you see the same practitioner consistently, they will be able to note changes and trends over time, which could allow for early interventions.

Thoughts or experiences?

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