ICU! Best Magnifiers for Hospitals.

Which Magnifiers are best for Hospitals and ICUs?

Never in a million years did we think we’d be writing like this about magnifiers for hospitals. Even in the current coronavirus pandemic we thought we’d be recommending magnifying glasses for hobbies in the home. Reading, crosswords, jigsaws and recipes to name but a few.

Or we thought we’d be making suggestions for people needing magnification for other, less interesting tasks around the house. Like reviewing insurance cover, checking employment small print, reading instruction manuals or looking at medicine bottles. All of these are ones where a magnifier might come in handy.

NHS request for magnifiers

Then very late last night we received this email:

‘Hello – I’m a nurse working on critical care at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. Our staff are struggling wearing glasses with the PPE. I am looking at the possibility of having a magnifying  glass at every bed space. It would have to be:

  1. Fairly cheap, else it’s likely to go missing (it’s likely to go missing anyway – we lose everything).
  2. Easy to clean between patients.
  3. Big enough to read charts.

I also don’t know what magnification would be best. We have 14 beds on the main unit. Can you help please?

Thank you, L’

Having responded to the enquiry, we are pleased to share here our recommendations. Using price, hygiene and size as a starting point please find our suggestions below.

Magnifiers for critical care

Hygiene in hospitals really is critical, perhaps nowhere more so than in an ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Finding magnifiers that are suitable for use in such environments is not as simple as it sounds.

The main reason for this is that any device used in a hospital must be kept clean. Ideally this means that the whole magnifier is made from the same piece of material. Not an easy task because most magnifiers have several component parts. Lenses and handles are normally made from different materials. Then you have lens rims, switches, battery housings, screw fittings, adjustable arms. The list goes on. More components mean more opportunities for tiny particles of dust and other matter to gather, making cleaning harder and more time-consuming.

Our recommendation is that hospitals use magnifiers made out of as few component parts as possible. So we are suggesting two magnifiers made from just a single piece of plastic, thus making them more hygienic than other magnifying glasses.

Windsor Magnifying Glass – the best magnifier for hospitals

Windsor Magnifying Glass For Reading Patient Charts and Medical Reports
  • Made from one piece transparent plastic
  • Easy clean, dirt spots immediately visible
  • Three lens sizes: 47mm, 70mm, 98mm diameter
  • Hole in handle for hanging cord or string

The handheld COIL Windsor Magnifier is made from a single piece of transparent molded plastic. Ideal for use in sterile environments, it is easy to clean. No part of it allows microscopic bacteria to gather. Being made from all-clear plastic, even the naked eye can see dust or dirt particles needing to be removed. Hospital ICUs, Labs, Sterilisation and Disinfection units de-contaminate and process thousands of used medical devices. Receiving and distributing sundry items all day long is commonplace in hospital wards, theatres and clinics. Making sure the contents are clean takes up precious minutes. Simple magnifiers like the Windsor can be wiped clean in seconds.


As instruments and devices come back in to the units for processing they all have to be tracked and then tagged before they can be issued safely again. Imagine what a strain on the eyes it must be to read and register those tags – and that’s where a magnifying glass becomes very useful. The COIL Windsor offers different options to help medical staff check numbers and records.

Three different sizes

Many hospitals in the UK cover such magnification tasks by taking two, or even all three of the different Windsor sizes. The strongest, most powerful one is the little 48mm-diameter version, which magnifies up to 4.4 times original size. The 70mm one magnifies 2.6x, while the larger 98mm version makes everything look just over twice as big (2.3x). Go for the smallest one for the most powerful magnification, or choose the biggest if you need a comfortable view over a larger area.

Windsor magnifying glasses are made from tough, shatterproof plastic so they are likely to survive the occasional drop on a hard hospital floor. A small hole drilled into the handle enables the Windsor to be hung on a hook or even threaded with a cord of some kind so that they can always be kept around a hospital staff member’s body.

On wards and up wards? Extra Strong Magnifier Sheet –  fresnel magnifying lens

Fresnel lens magnifying sheets allow viewing of larger areas
  • Made from single sheet plastic
  • Easy wipe-clean
  • Durable – 2mm thick
  • A4 size, 2x magnification

Small text on patient charts and graphs puts a strain on the eyes. Viewing large areas of data can be a chore. This large magnifying sheet covers an area up to A4 and magnifies text to twice its original size (two times/2x magnification). It is made from a single piece of rigid optical-grade acrylic, which can be wiped clean. Extra thin concentric lines on the surface of the lens improve viewing clarity, especially around the centre. The plastic is 2mm thick, allowing it to be held over the subject matter with just one hand (this one does not ‘flex’ like fresnel lenses made from thinner material – normally PVC).

How do fresnel lenses work?

Fresnel lenses are made up of hundreds of concentric grooves, etched onto a flat surface, to gather and direct light towards the centre. These grooves are easier to produce on plastic surfaces than glass ones, often over a much larger area than exists within the capability of a normal magnifying lens. Hence they are helpful when a thin, lightweight magnifier is required, perhaps to view a bigger subject or a large block of text.

The overall image quality is rarely as good as that from a conventional glass or plastic lens but in many applications a fresnel lens is a cheaper option, perfectly adequate for general low-level magnification requirements. We have had our Extra Strong Magnifier Sheet in our range since we began and the improved viewing quality from its thicker lens shows through time and again.

More magnifying solutions

Away from ICUs, other hospital departments also use magnifiers frequently. Choose an illuminated hand-held magnifier for a little extra light when checking patient files. Try a desk model if you need to keep your hands free. Use a magnifying lamp in a lab if you need extra magnification and strong white light.

Fresnel lenses are always popular, cost very little, and come in different sizes. Most are made from thin, flexible PVC. Any of these would also be suitable for use in a medical environment. Popular credit card size mini-lens magnifiers can be kept to hand in a pocket or even on a clipboard.

credit-card magnifier
Card magnifiers like this are the size of a credit card

Do you work for the NHS?

If you are working in a frontline NHS department and need magnifiers, please get in touch with us. We’re only too happy to be given a chance to help.

Take care and stay safe.