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In My Opinion

Will Ultrasound Replace Stethoscopes?

Published January 27, 2014 8:47 AM by Jimmy Thacker

A pair of prominent New York City cardiologists are now touting the use of ultrasound technology for bedside patient evaluation. They claim it will soon replace the stethoscope, a staple of medicine since its invention in 1816. Ultrasound, which came about in the 1950s, allows a practitioner to "see" the problem rather than depending on hearing it. The cardiologists say that it is far superior to the stethoscope, and that its use should be expanded in every hospital in the country.

The problem with ultrasound technology is that it is expensive. Even in a couple of years, when its use is expected to be more mainstream, the cost of a single unit is projected to be around $1000-$2000. Compare that with the stethoscope you use now. Stethoscopes cost anywhere from $20 to whatever you want to spend, depending on the bells and whistles that come with it. This would make the ultrasound machine cost prohibitive for many facilities, and very cost prohibitive for medical, nursing, respiratory and other students in disciplines that routinely rely on the stethoscope. Additionally, it takes more training to use the ultrasound devices than it does a stethoscope. This could slow down a medical student's progress in school, and would open up more opportunities for misdiagnoses at the bedside.

In my opinion, I am all for technological advancement. However, I think saying that the stethoscope is on its way out any time soon is a little premature. I think that many older therapists will have a hard time leaving their "ears" in the car or locker and learning to use the new technology. I think that some patients may not welcome the change, either. While I do believe that ultrasound technology has its place in medicine, I am not retiring my tried and true money maker just yet, and would suggest you do not, either.

That's just my opinion,
Jim Thacker, MBA, MHA, CRT, AE-C
Windsor, Mo.


Susan, there are likely more qualified people than I to ask for advice on re-entering respiratory care. The blogs here on Advance can be a big help if you look through them; some have written on this very topic. The obvious advice is to make sure you know the licensure procedures and requirements for the state you are going to practice in. Consider joining the AARC if you are not yet a member, and find out about your states respiratory society. Not only can they help you with CEU's, but can also be help you learn about conferences and lectures in your area. If you are going to re-enter the field, it may be a good time to update your resume. This could help explain what you've been doing during your absence from the field, which would be a question that almost any HR person will have for you when you get to the interview. Finally, consider the role you want. Are you looking for management because you went back to school? Are you looking for critical care? Consider the position and salary you will need, then go for it! I wish you the best of success in your future endeavors.

Jim Thacker, RT - MBA, MHA, CRT, AE-C February 17, 2014 9:05 AM
Windsor MO

I am getting ready to return to the Respiratory field after a lengthy absence.  I am a Registered Respiratory Therapist and have been reviewing with the Kettering RRT home Study for about the past year.  Any advise?...I love reading your blogs!

Susan C, Respiratory - RRT January 31, 2014 3:09 AM

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