Grid Down Hospital: Part III – Tools
Certain basic tools are needed to perform medicine. While all are not needed on every patient, some are and are needed to properly perform an exam and diagnose patients.
Stethoscope – A cheap stethoscope is good for taking blood pressures in a quiet room and not much more. A good stethoscope can cost several hundred dollars, without getting into electronic ‘scopes. Good brands include 3-M Littman, Welch-Allyn and Hewlett-Packard, ADC is a mid-range brand. It is possible to find good stethoscopes at reasonable prices. Be careful with “Sprague-Rappaport” (a style and not a brand) dual tube scopes, if the tubes rub against each other you get noise. If that’s all you have, tape the two tubes together. Sources include Amazon, Ebay, and Allheart.com, among others.
BP Cuff set – Actually called an aneroid sphygmomanometer, these are the common things that get wrapped around your arm and pumped up. You should have a kit with different sized cuffs, a cuff that is too small for the arm will read high, and too large for the arm will read low. Automated home BP units are nearly worthless – they are expensive, use power, and are frequently quite inaccurate. If you should happen on a mercury sphygmomanometer that is still intact, great – they are fairly accurate over the long haul, and as long as the glass doesn’t break, safe enough.
Headlamp – Preferably a bright and adjustable output LED version. Actually, you should have several. This can be one you use for camping, it doesn’t have to be a medical version. I keep one in my locker at work and occasionally use it in day to day work in my ED.
LED lights have pretty well changed flashlights in the last few years. LED’s are typically whiter, can be brighter and certainly uses less battery power. A headlamp can be used to perform minor or major surgical procedures, work on patients at night, and just is a handy thing to have. They can be purchased almost anywhere, including Amazon or even Wal-Mart for $10-15 or less. Combined with a small solar battery charger and rechargeable batteries, you should be able to have light for quite some time.
Thermometer, normal range, oral – Get a digital version and a bunch of the plastic sleeves for it, and just replace it yearly (it’s cheaper than trying to find the battery and replacing it). Wal-Mart, your local drug store, or Amazon.
For when you can’t replace the digital battery, get (several) glass medical thermometers – oral and rectal, (the only real difference is the taste) and a small dish or tray to disinfect them in. You will also need a program or policy to clean them between different patients: I suggest having one for each admitted patient and do a thorough sterilization between patients, don’t use them across patients. You can use the same sleeves as for the digital thermometers on them to make hygiene a bit easier.
Thermometer, hypothermia – This is a lower than normal reading thermometer. Most of the same comments for regular thermometers apply, with the exception of finding them at Wal-Mart, and they are a bit more expensive. Handy when treating a suspected hypothermia patient.
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