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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Replacing Nurses With Robots

Published November 22, 2010 7:59 AM by Linda Jones
It's finally happened! They've replaced you with a machine. Well, not exactly replaced, but researchers have developed a "robotic nurse" at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

As a nurse, if you were to create a robot to perform part of your job, what would you have it do? Are there tasks you do that do not require critical thinking beyond what can be programmed into a computer? And what about compassion?

The task the researchers highlighted with their robot nurse, Cody, was a sponge bath.

Let's picture this. I'm critically ill, unable to get out of bed. I am scared, tired and lonely. What would make me feel cared for and safe more than mechanical washing?

In the blog Technology Review, Kristina Grifantini writes that a sponge bath "can be an awkward social situation and make a patient feel uncomfortable." Sure, with a robot there are no gender issues. I don't have to be embarrassed by my condition in front of a mechanical caregiver. But I think I would also feel - non-human.

Maybe it just takes some getting used to, but if I am ever sick enough to need a sponge bath, I will take the warm grasp of a human hand, the comforting gaze of human eyes, and the careful thoughts of an intelligent professional who is assessing my condition while assuring me that I am, in fact, cared for - and human.

I'm not against robots in general, and there probably is a place for them on a nursing unit. Perhaps dispensing medications to assure the right dose is given and that there are no contraindications with other treatments; maybe taking care of all that documentation.

If you had a robot on your nursing unit, what would you want it to do?

posted by Linda Jones


So true. And what nurse, or aide, doesn't also do some level of assessment when they are performing this type of care? Not to mention the ability to give comfort during a stressful time. Let's limit the robots to surgery and delivery equipment.

Linda Jones April 11, 2011 7:49 AM

I don't know about anyone else, but I would be creaped out by a hunk of metal coming up and taking care of me.  I would rather have a person washing my face and giving me my food.  And, how much does it cost to build and maintain these things, as opposed to hiring a nuse aide at this point?

Jennifer April 9, 2011 9:59 AM

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