Could Robot Nurses Impact the Future of Health Care?

Robot nurses have arrived, and their ability to handle routine tasks can help create more efficient health care facilities that benefit patients and nurses alike. For nurse leaders, knowing how to integrate robot nurses into their patient care strategies can help them dynamically shape the future of health care. 

To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by Hawai’i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program.

What Is a Robot Nurse?

Robot nurses are machines programmed to execute specific tasks related to care delivery and a facility’s functionality. Their presence can aid nursing professionals with certain duties, and can also contribute to patient engagement.

Purpose of Robot Nurses

Robot nurses are often designed to handle routine, repetitive tasks. By handling such tasks, they free up nurses to concentrate on more complex functions and responsibilities.

Robot Nurse Tasks

A primary task robot nurses handle involves the distribution and storage of objects and resources. These items can include medicines, lab specimens and samples, and even food trays.

Other tasks involve patient engagement. For example, robot nurses can perform routine diagnostic activities, such as taking vital signs. They can also lift patients and move them from one area to another, and provide assistance with ambulatory tasks. Companion robots can even provide patients with social engagement.

Additionally, robot nurses can take care of tasks related to facility maintenance, such as cleaning and disinfecting environments. They may also function as a telemedicine interface, allowing nurses to provide remote patient care.

Types of Robot Nurses

There are different types of robot nurses. Nursing robots are programmed to handle routine nursing tasks. Socially-assistive robots provide social interaction, and physically-assistive robots provide help with physical patient tasks.

Design Elements of Robot Nurses

A wide variety of technologies enable robot nurses. Robotic arms allow them to manipulate or move objects, and high-speed wireless technologies provide networking and communication capabilities. Sensors allow a robot to safely move throughout a facility, and secure storage spaces let them safely stow objects. Some robot nurse designs even incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) to allow them to learn and adapt.

Some robots also have LED lights that project facial expressions. This element points to the future: eventually, robot nurses may be built to have a more humanoid appearance.

How Robot Nurses Can Benefit the Future of Health Care

Integrating robot nurses can produce a number of benefits for health care facilities, positively impacting both nursing professionals and patients. Robot nurses can streamline workplace efficiency, reduce physical strain on nurses, provide patients with social engagement, and generally build a safer work environment. All of these contributions help health care facilities achieve their ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes.

Robot Nurses and Nurse Burnout Prevention

Nurse burnout is a grave concern facing modern health care. A 2021 survey conducted by nursing job site Incredible Health indicated 34% of nurses were poised to leave the profession by 2022, and 44% of these nurses noted burnout as the primary reason for wanting to exit nursing. Additionally, 65% of surveyed nurses stated they were verbally or physically assaulted by a patient or a patient’s family member in 2021. 52% of these nurses cited frustration concerning COVID/hospital guidelines as contributing to the conflicts, while 47% cited anger concerning staffing as a contributing factor.

Nurse burnout is also a key contributing factor to the ongoing nursing shortage. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 195,450 new registered nurses and 112,700 new nurse practitioners will be needed between 2021 and 2031. Because robot nurses can reduce the work burden for human nurses, they have the potential to reduce the causes of burnout.

Challenges to Robot Nurse Integration

There are several potential roadblocks that could hinder broader implementation of robot nurses. There may be challenges regarding acceptance among nurse workers. There are legal concerns in the event of a malfunction, as well as concerns around data security and cybercrime. Additionally, there are worries regarding the appearance and aesthetics of robots designed for physical and social assistance. Finally, the cost of implementation may cause reluctance among facilities to embrace robot nurses.

How Nurses and Robots Work Together

While robot nurses can help create a more efficient care delivery system, there is no substitute for the human touch. It takes nurse leaders to create collaborative strategies where humans and robots deliver care in tandem.

The Importance of Human Nurses

Human nurses quickly adapt and react to situations organically. They have an advanced understanding of ethical considerations and the ability to practice empathy and provide emotional support. The most advanced robot nurse can only fulfill a fraction of the role of a human nurse.

Skills and Characteristics of a Successful Nurse

Nurses have many skills and characteristics that make them invaluable. These include leadership, attention to detail, empathy, and interpersonal competencies such as effective communication — all qualities that are tied to human nature.

Nurses and Technological Skills

Advancements in health care technology, including the emergence of nurse robots, make technological literacy a fundamental skill for nurse leaders. The field continues to evolve in such diverse areas as electronic health records (EHRs), patient monitoring systems, automated medication administration, and equipment tracking devices.

The Future of Nursing Is Now

As the use of robots in nursing grows, their role as a collaborative health care tool has become increasingly clear and valuable. Their ability to handle routine tasks — when combined with the ability of human nurses to provide care in ways that only humans can — empowers the delivery of a more holistic form of care. This can have a profound effect not only on patient care, but also on the nursing profession itself.


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