Good clinical skills are all about observation, and observation is massively helped with the right kit. We are not talking MRI scanners here, but hands-on, front-line equipment that let me look and listen to the body more effectively. That’s some of my stuff laid out on my desk.
Stethoscope: this quintessential piece of medical kit is invaluable, not only for listening to the heart and lungs but also bowels thyroid gland and, occasionally a baby.
Mercury sphygmomanometer: for taking blood pressure the old fashioned way. Personally I prefer it, and trust it, far more than the modern digital ones. It is used in conjunction with the stethoscope, listening for the pulse to become audible (systolic) and fade out (diastolic pressure). With this traditional method I get to listen to the quality of the pulse at the same time – information you miss if all you are looking for is a number on a machine.
Magnifying glasses: essential for checking skin and eyes and mouth. Dermatology is a tricky business, and I am certainly not a specialist, but I have accurately diagnosed many a case of eczema, psoriasis, and all sorts of lesions, as well as correcting previously incorrect diagnoses, and all through careful observation and attention to the full history of the patient.
Otoscope and ophthalmoscope: for looking inside ears and eyes respectively. I can examine the ear canal and ear-drum, the ceiling, floor and sides of the ear canal, and identify and treat many problems, and with the ophthalmoscope observe the fundus, optic disc and retinal vessels of the eye to aid in an understanding of a variety of symptoms and signs a patient might present with.
Dipstix: as a first line aid in identifying a number of conditions urine dipstick are invaluable. A quick pee in a pot in the bathroom next door and in a couple of minutes I can obtain useful and actionable information. I get instant feedback on their urinary glucose, ketones, leukocytes, blood, protein and pH, all of which can be direct or indirect signifiers of pathology or underlying condition. Quick, cheap, reliable and invaluable.