A nursing shortage in the U.S. isn’t breaking news, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that while the number of nurses will increase by 19 percent by 2022, demand will grow faster than the supply, which will leave over one million unfilled nursing jobs by then. Developing technologies that are emerging may offer a solution.
Finnish think tank EVA estimates that nursebots could perform up to 20 percent of the tasks undertaken by nurses. Hospitals in other countries are already ahead of the curve when it comes to this trend. Terapio is used in Japan, a medical cart that can make rounds, deliver medications to patients and grab medical records. When it follows a clinician, the robot can also be used to update patient data.
Robots like Terapio are also useful in nursing facilities, where patients may need reminders to take needed medications or to get out of bed. Designed to avoid becoming an irritating nag while still performing a crucial function, the robot only provide needed information and may help patients stand and get into wheelchairs or go to the bathroom, another task regularly expected of nurses.
One of the goals of the new technology is to free nurses from simple, but time consuming tasks, allowing them to focus more on care tasks that require a more specialized, personal touch. EVA projects that its unlikely robotics in healthcare would lead to staff reductions.
The National Science Foundation is allocating $1 million to the continued development of robot nurses, so you can expect to see more mechanized caretakers in hospitals and nursing homes. Granted, there are challenges here, ranging from patient comfort to the robots’ ability (or lack thereof) to make ethical decisions.
EVA also cautions, that the use of robotics shouldn’t make it so patients are left on their own too often, and the human touch will remain necessary for specialized tasks.