Oct 04, 2016
By Assisting Nurses, Can Robots Ease the Shortage?
It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel—robots humming around hospitals supporting nurses by delivering medication, retrieving medical records, helping patients out of bed and keeping them company. But it’s already happening in Japan, says a report in The Daily Beast, and it might be part of the answer to the registered nursing shortage here.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, while the number of nurses is expected to increase by 19 percent by 2022, demand will likely outpace supply, leaving more than 1 million nursing jobs unfilled. If nurses are able to focus more of their attention on tending to patients’ more serious needs, technology may be able to help fill the gap. That’s why in Japan, researchers are testing robots intended to work in health care facilities with routine and arduous tasks. For example, a robotic medical cart may soon follow health care professionals on their hospital rounds, retrieve records, and deliver medications.
It remains to see how the R2-D2 factor will work, but the National Science Foundation has paved the mechanical way in the United States by awarding a $1 million grant for the development of “robotic nursing assistants.”