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While the stethoscope is the most recognized tool associated with doctors, we actually use many other specialized instruments that expand our abilities beyond just supersonic hearing.

To the picture to the right is an example of the tools commonly carried around by the "average doctor". We purchase these items from medical supply stores often while at medical school and most last for decades e.g. my medical school stethoscope served me well for almost twenty years with heavy daily use. The tools we use most commonly by number:

1 = a tourniquet for taking blood (though some Bohemian physicians will tie a surgical glove around your arm as a makeshift one instead)

2 = a stethoscope for listening to body sounds like your growling stomach having waited an hour to see us

3 = a calculator for adjusting drug doses and calculating medical formulas (after a night on call simple arithmetic like 5+5 can throw you for a loop).

4 = a tape measure for assessing things like belly obesity and baby growth.

5 = a smartphone or tablet for taking hospital calls and checking up doses and facts. For most docs these have superseded calculators. In fact, smartphones have become indispensable to doctors fulfilling the roles of multiple reference books, calculator, pager, flashlight, and dictaphone. 

6 = an otoscope to look inside ears for infection and lost q-tip ends :)

7 = an ophthalmoscope to examine red eyes.

8 = a light to scrutinize moles and other problem spots.

9 = a patella hammer for checking reflexes.

10 = a name tag pin for your lab coat (optional) and a favorite pen ('cause we write a lot!).

11 = miscellaneous tools: some physicians carry around their favorite pocket reference book, vision testing pocket charts, reference range cards, hand sanitizer, tissues, reading glasses, lucky charms etc. I remember when I worked ER I would always have a roll of skin tape hanging from the earpiece of my stethoscope so it was always on hand for setting up IV lines.  

It's important to remember that all doctors are also not equal. Different specialists carry very different instruments to work in their medical bags. Some doctors don't even use stethoscopes - a psychiatrist for example listens to your story not your heart so will often not carry one.

Other medical tools not featured here are too big to be portable so we leave these at work - like ultrasound, ECG and x ray machines.

Some medical tools we doctors use a lot too but do not carry around would be: 

  • syringes, needles and swabs

  • IV access and solutions

  • scalpels, scissors and sutures

  • bandages and disinfectants

  • antiseptic wipes

  • blood pressure monitors

  • thermometers (though I have seen some docs carry these on their person)

  • charting stationery 

  • scrubs

  • and more.

The above items do get high frequency physician use too but are generally provided on the wards and rooms we work from. If you're interested in what our medical tools from exam tables to tongue depressors cost, check out my video tell-all at

Probably the favorite doctor 'tool' not featured here but considered a necessity with every doc I know, is a hot morning coffee mug :)

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