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Robotic Nursing

Posted May 24 2010 8:00am

Robotic nurses hold the promise of becoming more of a reality now than science fiction. Imagine having a robot around the house to do all your chores, administer medicine, and do all your checkups without you having to step out of your house at all. This is what robotic nurses or nurse bots are programmed to do, and the rate at which research is underway on this project, robotic nurses may soon become a common household feature for all those who can afford it.

Role of robotic nurses

Though the name suggests otherwise, robotic nurses are not meant to be a substitute for professional nurses, but are simply meant to add to the number of caregivers available. This technology is developed keeping in mind the care required by elderly people and those suffering from mobility issues on a daily basis.

With the improvement in healthcare and medical services, the average life span of individuals is increasing, and this demographic shift calls for an improvement and expansion of the present care giving force struggling to meet the demands of society. There has to be a solution that suits all– proper care provided to those who need it without the extra burden on healthcare. With the rising cost of healthcare, the thought of having robotic nurses in homes and hospitals is both an exciting and a comforting proposition.

The expected duties that robotic nurses are being trained to perform include:

- Live in the homes of elderly people and help with chores like opening the refrigerator or other appliances, and fetching small objects for them

- Reminding patients to take their medicines, visit the doctor, or even take their meals on time

- Reducing need for contact with doctors by connecting them with professional caregivers via the internet

- Provide much needed social interaction

Technology involved

Research is underway in many places all over the world to make advances in robotics technology. Many of these projects are at the testing stage to maximize and optimize the functions performed by robotic nurses. These robots are equipped with a PC and Wi-Fi system that help it to connect and communicate with others, camera and stereo systems, speech recognition software, and sensors to help it move around the house.

Future of robotic nurses

Scientists predict a surge of robotic nurses by the year 2010.  A few robots were already introduced to be tested to see how they are better in helping patients with mobility issues.

For example, the robot El-E, developed by the Center for Healthcare Robotics in the Health Systems Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, is designed to aid people with everyday tasks such as fetching small objects around the house. Pearl Nursebot developed in collaboration by four schools in the United States- University of Michigan, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford is undergoing field testing at the Longwood Retirement Community in Oakmont, Pa. RIBA, developed by researchers at Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research it is designed to help nurses lift and carry patients weighing up to 61 Kgs.

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