The life of doctors officially begins at the receipt of their first stethoscope. It is ingrained on doctors' minds that in order to fulfill the role of the doctor, they must have a metal and rubber-tubing device hung around their neck in a fashion similar to the doctors on Grey's Anatomy and E.R. Regardless of whether or not doctors know the nuances of auscultation or how to listen for rare heart murumurs, they will wear the stethoscope proudly to signify to the world that they made it into the distinguished profession of medicine. In the medical world, the type of stethoscope matters as much to doctors as their sub-sub-specialty choices. Outside observers can walk through the wards of a local hospital and observe which brand of stethoscope that doctors could not live without: Littmann from 3M.
All doctors own a Littmann stethoscope! But why are they so popular? When asked, a doctor will typically praise the acoustic quality as well as the colorful and collapsable, fashionable earpieces. Patients and friends will ask doctors if theirs is the same brand they saw on last week's House, M.D. These sorts of questions affirm the doctor's choice of a Littmann as a medical fashion statement. If one sees a doctor sporting a brand-new Littmann Cardiology III stethoscope, it is a good idea to ask them how well they can hear with their Littmann. You can follow up with "I once had a colleague try to auscultate a CCU patient with a Welch-Allyn Harvey stethoscope, and he could barely even hear S1 and S2! It's a good thing someone had a Littmann on hand just like the one you have or the patient would have died." This will further bolster the doctor's confidence in his Littmann stethoscope and will give you favor with that doctor in the future.
Beware the doctors who are using non-Littmann stethoscopes! One should never comment on their hardware because it is likely they were given an inferior stethoscope as a gift by a loved one who possessed neither the fashion sense nor the medical insight to know what brand is acceptable in the medical world. Although an expensive way to earn doctors' favor, donating a Littmann stethoscope to these unfortunate doctors can save them from a world of fashion shame. And it can save the patients from enduring a dreaded physical exam involving a frumpy, non-Littman stethoscope.
(Image from Curt via Flickr)