Robotics in Nursing

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Registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are accustomed to emerging technology impacting their environments and daily duties. While these advances in technology and equipment bring many positive changes, some trends like robotics are feared because of the possibility that they’ll take jobs away from nurses. However, the opportunities for nurses and robots to work together, and the innate skills and characteristics of humans make RNs and NPs irreplaceable.

Overview of Robotics in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare robotics market is projected to grow to $2.8 billion in revenue by 2021. That’s because the applications in healthcare seem endless. It’s a market that includes surgical, rehabilitation, and hospital robots. It can also include elements like surgical robot training, exoskeletons, smart prostheses and bionics, robotic nurses, and robots that can assist with therapy, pills, logistics, telepresence, and cleaning. There are also key technologies enabling healthcare robotics, such as gesture control, machine vision, speech and voice recognition, and tactile sensors.

There are numerous benefits to implementing robots in healthcare. It can help a facility save costs, reduce facility waste, and improve patient care. Ultimately, technology can provide sophisticated levels of measurability and traceability.

Famous Nurse Robots

Robotics in healthcare is well past its early developmental stage. So much so, robot nurses have become well-known for their contributions to the healthcare industry.

Robot Dinsow

Used by Thai and Japanese hospitals for patient care, Robot Dinsow monitors elderly patients via video and sets up video chats with their relatives. It also alerts caregivers of patient activity by phone. Additionally, it provides reminders for medication and exercise and exercises alongside the elderly. Finally, it provides entertainment by offering games and karaoke.

Robot Paro

This seal-like robot is used in hospitals and extended-care facilities the world over. It stimulates interaction between patients and caregivers. It also helps to relax patients by imitating the voice of a baby harp seal, Additionally, it adapts to patient behavior in part through its five sensor types: light, audio, temperature, posture, and tactile. Overall, this robot helps to reduce patient stress, improve their relaxation and motivation, and improve their socialization with caregivers and their peers.

Robot Pepper

This humanoid robot works the reception area of two Belgian hospitals, greeting people and guiding patients to their proper department. It can recognize 20 languages and can identify gender, and can identify joy, sadness, anger, and surprise. It can also interpret non-verbal cues like head tilts, frowns, smiles, and shifts in vocal tones.

Pepper also “sees” through two high-resolution cameras and a 3D camera. It’s also equipped with shape recognition software that processes captured images. Twenty engines and three multi-directional wheels allow the robot to move at a maximum speed of 3 km/h, and its six laser sensors, two ultrasound transmitters, and three obstacle detectors in its legs help it identify the distance of objects within a 3-meter range.

Establishing a Middle Ground

Rather than pitting robots against humans, people should consider the opportunities healthcare robots create. They should also consider the reasons why robots can never completely replace human nurses.

Why Human Nurses are Irreplaceable

Because robots rely on programming, they lack the common sense and reasoning ability of humans. Robots also need programming to understand emotions and exhibit a proper response. Additionally, a robot’s artificial intelligence (AI) can replicate a person’s creativity through algorithms, but AI leaves robots incapable of creating things that resonate with humans. Finally, a robot’s programming may cause delays in ethical decision making when it’s faced with an unusual circumstance – something that could potentially affect a person’s life.

How Nurse Robots Offer a Helping Hand

The strength of robot nurses lay in their ability to assist. They can help out in repetitive tasks, such as medical supply retrieval, food and medication delivery, and patient movement and transfer.

Robots can also assist by the training staff. For instance, a robot patient could simulate the behavior of a patient’s limbs during patient-transfer training.

Finally, robots can aid in education. Duquesne students can interact with DUSTIN, short for Duquesne University Simulating Telepresence in Nursing. According to Joe Seidel, director of technology in Duquesne’s School of Nursing, students “can connect to him through an iPad or iPhone app or any computer. Once connected, they can use DUSTIN to see, hear, speak, and communicate with anyone in the room.” DUSTIN is extremely innovative – Duquesne is the second nursing school in the U.S. to have a nurse robot.

How Nurse Robots Create and Expand Career Opportunities

As robots continue to become more common in healthcare, the need for robotic coordinators to oversee robotic duties will create a new job opportunity. The need for robotic telemedicine will also increase, as patients living in rural areas or those in urgent need of a specialist can receive a diagnosis and treatment plan via a robot controlled remotely through a desktop, laptop, or mobile device. Robotics will also increase research opportunities, as nurses can use their awareness of what’s needed in the healthcare environment to participate in the technological advancement of developing robots.


Today’s healthcare is undoubtedly an exciting, rapidly evolving industry. Technology companies have noticed the needs in the healthcare setting and are continuing to develop and advance the needs in the healthcare setting and are continuing to develop and advance technologies that will benefit both the patient and the healthcare professional. As a result, students entering the field will face challenges and opportunities in adopting and adapting new technologies.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the Duquesne University School of Nursing program.

How the rise of the robot nurse is having a positive impact on patient care and workplace efficiency, all without costing human jobs.

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