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The best smartwatches and fitness trackers for healthcare workers
It’s difficult enough choosing a smartwatch, but if you’re a healthcare worker, you may have a more acute list of requirements. Considering the consistently high quality of devices available, there aren’t really any “wrong” options out there. However, there are devices we’d recommend above others for the specific demands of the job. Find a list of the best smartwatches for healthcare workers on the floor or in the field below.
Buying the right smartwatch for healthcare work
You may not be allowed to have your phone on your person during a shift, and that’s why smartwatches can be so useful for busy healthcare workers. We understand that their requirements may not line up with the average smartwatch shopper. For this reason, we’ve picked the below devices based on the following criteria.
- A bright display and analog clock faces: A smartwatch with a bright, legible display is important for seeking data in equally bright light or dark environments. We understand that smartwatches that feature a set of analog clock faces with a second hand are essential for taking patient vitals. The devices on our list also include adjustable backlight timers to ensure they don’t switch off at the worst moments.
- Battery life: Endurance is a factor if you’re regularly working multiple shifts. You’ll get two days of battery life per charge from most of the devices on this list.
- Unobtrusive and comfortable: It’s important to find a watch that stays out of the way until you need it.
- Easy to clean: Hygiene is paramount, so it’s important that a device can be cleaned without fear of damage.
- Water resistant: The devices on this list can be submerged in water and most other solutions without issue.
- Adjustable and removable straps: Finally, it’s likely that healthcare workers would want to use one strap for work and another for casual wear. The devices on our list are compatible with third-party bands. Some devices even support watch fobs.
Of course, it’s highly likely that healthcare workers would also want a device that offers a wealth of health and fitness tracking features alongside smart capabilities, too. All devices listed pack the essentials, like notifications support, call alerts, and, in some cases, support for apps and third-party services.
Notably, we’re primarily focusing on indoor healthcare workers and their particular requirements, but EMTs and paramedics in the field may want to consider more rugged devices or button navigation on top of the recommendations described above.
Finally, we understand that not every healthcare worker is allowed to wear accessories around the wrist. If this is the case, there are some fitness trackers you can wear around your ankle. We’ve included one such device below.
The best smartwatches and fitness trackers for healthcare workers
- Apple Watch Series 8: The Series 8 offers iPhone users a reliable wearable companion that excels in practically every department. It’s durable and provides useful health and smart features.
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Samsung’s latest premium wearable is the best smartwatch for healthcare workers running Android phones with its tough chassis, sapphire crystal lens, and comfortable fit.
- Fitbit Sense: Now among the cheapest fully-featured health watches you can buy, the Sense is great for healthcare workers simply looking at a wrist companion that lasts for days.
- Garmin Forerunner 255: An excellent running watch, the Forerunner 255 is great for after-work activities and on the floor thanks to its legible MIP display and customizable watch face.
- Fitbit Inspire 3: An affordable fitness band with loads of utility. With the right band, you can also wear the Inspire 3 around your ankle to track steps and other daily stats.
Apple Watch Series 8: The best smartwatch for iPhone users
It’s tough to recommend anything other than the Apple Watch for iPhone users. Apple’s smartwatch seamlessly connects to other devices in its ecosystem, providing a real smart, integrated device experience. You also get plenty of apps with watchOS, loads of health tracking features, and a device that can withstand daily abuse thanks to its sapphire crystal lens.
Importantly for healthcare workers, swapping out straps on the Apple Watch is quick and easy, while keeping the device clean shouldn’t be much of a problem either, thanks to its water resistance rating. Siri can be used for setting quick reminders or timers, replying to messages is quick and simple, and you can also switch to the analog watch face for measuring vitals. If you want something more purpose-built, third-party apps like Medtimer can provide more useful respiratory rate counting.
Despite its perks, the Apple Watch Series 8 still lacks in one critical area. While it now has a low-power mode, the watch’s battery may not keep up with healthcare workers on longer shifts. Additionally, if you don’t like Apple’s default analog watch faces, you’re out of luck. No third-party faces are supported on the device line.
Our verdict: Apple Watch Series 8 review
- Excellent Retina display
- Premium design and build
- Advanced health tracking sensors
- Crash detection
- Improved sleep tracking
- Plenty of watchOS 9 upgrades
- Battery life still hasn’t improved
- No third-party watch faces
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: The best healthcare smartwatch for Android users
The Galaxy Watch 5 series stands out as the best smartwatch range for Android phones, especially if you own a Samsung smartphone. The Galaxy Watch 5 picks up where its predecessor left off, packing a tougher chassis and lens, a more comfortable fit, and improved battery life. Thanks to Wear OS, there are plenty of apps and third-party service support, Google Assistant and Bixby voice assistants are supported for busy users, and there are also plenty of third-party watch faces to choose from. Programmable buttons also let users trigger a timer or the stopwatch through a long-press or double tap.
For healthcare workers interested in tracking their own fitness, the Galaxy Watch 5 offers the usual sleep and activity tracking features, alongside a body composition sensor and a pretty accurate GPS for runners and cyclists.
We recommend going for the larger 44mm model as the smaller 40mm option doesn’t see much battery life improvement.
Our verdict: Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review
- Tougher build
- Comfortable on the wrist
- Better battery life on 44mm model
- Faster charging
- Reliable fitness tracking
- Good value for money
- Very similar to its predecessor
- Skin temperature sensor not ready at launch
- Small models still have short battery life
- Awkward touch bezel
- Some features exclusive to Samsung ecosystem
Fitbit Sense: The best affordable smartwatch for healthcare workers
The Fitbit Sense was by no means affordable at launch, but the debut of the Sense 2 has heralded some major price drops. It features several useful sensors to monitor the wearer’s well-being, including a heart rate monitor, a skin temperature sensor, an ECG, and an EDA sensor for stress monitoring. It has minimal app support with several third-party watch faces, while straps are easily swappable.
Healthcare workers should note that the Sense doesn’t display seconds on its always-on display, so you’ll have to install an analog watch face and extend the screen backlight if you wish to use the device for vitals. It’s also not the most durable watch and lacks the sapphire protection used by Apple and Samsung.
Despite its issues, the Sense is a great general smartwatch at the right price, but there are better options if you’re willing to spend more.
Our verdict: Fitbit Sense review
- High-end, premium design
- Improved quick-release straps
- (Mostly) accurate GPS and heart rate sensors
- Skin temp sensor provides useful data
- Detailed sleep tracking
- ~6-day battery life
- Bad inductive button
- EDA and ECG sensors need refining
- Fitbit OS still needs work
Garmin Forerunner 255: The best watch for keeping yourself in shape
If you don’t require a watch on the floor but do need a tool to help keep your body in top nick, the Garmin Forerunner series is an excellent bet. Specifically, the Forerunner 255 offers the best value and features for runners, cyclists, and more serious sportspeople.
Garmin’s biggest strength lies in its software and breakdown of training metrics. Body Battery is great for active users to understand their energy reserves, while Garmin provides some of the best recovery and training insights around. Surprisingly, there are also clock faces with a second hand for those who do decide to wear the watch around patients.
The Forerunner 255 is by no means the most subtle or professional watch you can wear with scrubs, nor does it pack any smart features the likes of Samsung and Apple watches possess. However, it’s a great device to ensure you’re at the peak of your powers, whatever activity you enjoy after work.
Our verdict: Garmin Forerunner 255 review
- Multiple sizes to fit more wrists
- Supports NFC and Garmin Pay
- Excellent Garmin Connect app integration
- Improved heart rate sensor
- Gyroscope and barometric altimeter
- Updated triathlon mode
- Five-button navigation can be tricky
- More expensive than the Forerunner 245
- Proprietary charging setup
Fitbit Inspire 3: The best fitness tracker for leg wear
Finally, if you can’t wear a smartwatch or fitness tracker around your wrist, why not wear it around your ankle? You probably wouldn’t want to splurge on a Series 8 just to wear it around a lower limb. However, the Fitbit Inspire 3 is just cheap enough to make sense.
The Inspire 3 includes a narrow and light design that makes for a comfortable fit. It also features a bright AMOLED display that makes reading notifications a breeze. While it’s not quite as useful as a smartwatch as other devices on this list, it can be easily worn on the wrist, strapped around an ankle, or clipped to a pants pocket, depending on which band you choose to buy.
Our verdict: Fitbit Inspire 3 review
- Colorful screen with optional always-on display
- Incredible battery life
- Detailed and fun sleep tracking
- Continuous SpO2 monitoring
- Excellent companion app
- Great value
- No NFC for digital payments
- Connected GPS only
- Fitbit Premium subscription required for full feature set
That’s our list of the best smartwatches and fitness trackers for healthcare workers, but that’s just a fraction of what’s available. Find more devices that may appeal to you below.
- Garmin Instinct 2 (Garmin): Garmin’s affordable rugged adventure watch may appeal to EMTs with its three-week battery life, reliable GPS performance, and solar charging on select models. It also features button navigation for those who wear gloves and basic smart features for responding to messages in the field.
- Apple Watch Ultra (Amazon): This is effectively a Series 8 in a titanium shell that’s tough to damage. The Ultra is a great watch for use on the floor or in the field thanks to its great battery life, programmable button, and a bevy of smart features.
- Apple Watch SE 2 (Best Buy): If you only care about the Apple Watch’s smart features and not any of its health-tracking kit, the SE is the more affordable option.
- Withings ScanWatch (Amazon): The ScanWatch is a great health tracking watch for those healthcare workers interested in their own well-being. It would have had a place on our main list if only it featured a physical second hand.
An analog watch may be best for practical use, like taking respiratory rate readings. They may also be easier to clean and cost much less than smartwatches. However, a smartwatch is the way to go if you need a device to keep you connected.
It’s not unheard of, but you likely won’t want to wear a $400 smartwatch around your ankle. If you can’t wear any devices around your wrist, consider getting an affordable fitness tracker, like the Inspire 3, with the right band to wear around your ankle.
Yes, it’s possible to find third-party fobs for smartwatches but the device won’t be able to track steps, read your heart rate, and monitor other stats.