Stethoscopic Skills through the PC
Can modern technology teach the art of auscultation?
Dr. Emma Lackey
listened carefully.

GPNet 57, 17 March 2003

Among the many guidelines and targets that make general practice what it is today, there is little to test the art of using a stethoscope. So, a tool to help teach and polish this skill should be welcomed.

As a technophobe it was with some trepidation that I set out to install an interactive multimedia program. Happily, even for me, it was simple: the CD goes in and the program uses the computer’s web browser to run the software strait away, on either a PC or a Mac.

The program is easy to negotiate. You can complete it in bite-size chunks, meaning you can easily nip out in the middle for a cup of tea ( or even for house call) without having to start at the beginning again.

You achieve the best quality if you plug in dedicated speakers or use headphones, but I managed perfectly with my computer’s inbuilt speakers.

If you computer make a beep when you click on an icon, you need to switch this feature off. After that you can relax and listen to the gentle whooshing of aortic regurgitation to your heart’s content, while watching visual images of the auditory information being presented.

Until I used this CD, I was not convinced I had ever heard mitral stenosis. It is easier when systole and diastole are mapped out in front of you.

The interactive part works best in the lung section. My 18-month-old son paused from the deep concentration required for coloring the flowers on my wall paper to wonder at the deep wheezes emanating from my computer. There are 16 different areas of the chest to listen to.

You can absorb as much physiology as you feel comfortable with. if it is enough to be reminded which valve close in lub, and which in dub, you will be happy. But if you lie awake pondering the significance of a reversed split-second heart sound you heard, you will also rest easy after this CD.

Because it is from the US, the program features one or two American terms. There are also clinical cases but only in the lung section. I would have liked them in the other section.

If you like using the stethoscope, you will enjoy this CD, and if you are not confident, it will certainly help.

I found it relaxing to listen to the gentle lub dub of a heart ticking along, it will not stop the patient talking, but it will help you concentrate hard next time you listen.

Dr. Lackey is a GP registrar in Hexham, Northumberland


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