The Future of Nursing - Will Nurses Ever be Replaced by Robots?


Now that the holiday madness is well and truly behind us, and the dawn of a new decade is slowly making itself felt, it seems like as good a time as any to consider what the future holds for the nursing profession. We’re moving ever deeper into the 21st century, and for the sci-fi fans of the world, that means the robot apocalypse is drawing closer by the day.

All jokes aside, however, the latest push for increased automation, alongside developments in artificial intelligence and robotics reveals something peculiar about our obsession with technology. Across a whole range of industries, it seems we’re engineering ourselves out of a job, and the question is not IF robots will take part or all of any specific position, but WHEN. Technology is primarily designed to make people’s lives easier, however, we’re increasingly removing the “human” from the equation entirely, and the fear surrounding a less human approach within the nursing profession is particularly palpable.

So, if the rise of the robot nurse is inevitable, where does that leave real nurses? And to what extent will AI nurses or other technologies render human contact obsolete? Here, we take a look at what the future of the nursing profession holds as increasing automation and robotic tech begins to be the norm.

Wearable Tech and the Internet

Robot Nurse Wearable Tech

Arguably, there are already cases where certain, routine nursing tasks can be performed by readily available consumer devices. Today, wearable technology is able to monitor a multitude of different metrics, including blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature among many others.

While these nascent technologies are in no way designed to replace those tests delivered by healthcare professionals, they can act as early warning signals for individuals, prompting them to visit a doctor or nurse. They can also serve as repositories of data that allow individuals to track and monitor their own health without the need for professional intervention.

Additionally, its requires little imagination to predict where this type of tech is heading. As these devices become increasingly common, and in tandem with the Internet, it seems logical to suggest that any data extrapolated by wearable tech can be stored and uploaded to a user’s profile, which can then be accessed by a nurse of doctor. This flood of data is likely to reap huge rewards for everyone involved, giving a holistic picture of a patient’s health on a day-to-day basis.  

Robotic Nurses, Automation, and Advancing AI

Robot Nurse Arm

Believe it or not, there are already a few, basic nurse robots in Japan going about their business! However, while these may be a indicator of what is to come, there’s little question over whether these supplemental robots can replace nurses for the time being. Today, robots are much more likely to take charge of heavy lifting here and there or offer simple scheduling and appointment making functionality.

However, the question remains as to where we draw the line on the types of functions a robot nurse should fulfill. Most people today will enter their hospital or clinic and instantly engage with a computer to register their attendance. Before that, they may make appointments through an app or online, and after, results are automatically sent to their phone or email. It makes sense that these basic functions are fully autonomous, ensuring real healthcare professionals spend less time on admin and more with their patients.

What is perhaps less clear is the role AI nurses will take as the technology continues to progress. Will AI nurses/doctors, combined with robotic technology, begin to identify health issues and make the requisite tests automatically? Or will AI even begin to predict a patient’s potential and future health simply by analyzing profiles? In truth, there are still plenty of speculative ideas surrounding advancing AI technology, but until real-world use cases are proposed, this kind of tech is unlikely to be changing the industry in the near future .

Conclusion — Nurse Robots are Coming but Your Job is Safe

Robot Nurses? Not Yet!

While their are multiple avenues to explore in the case of robotic nursing, the technology and its adoption within the healthcare industry is still in its infancy. From both a patient and a professional perspective, there are also other considerations that go beyond the time and cost efficiencies that tech is predicted to bring. People are still concerned that human connection remains an integral part of 21st century healthcare, and there’s little point in arguing that nurses or other healthcare professionals can be replaced in this respect.

So, can nurses be replaced by robots in the future? In some respects, yes, however this is more likely to be in areas of administration or labour rather than in aspects of care—at least for now. Robots and automated tech will essentially just be another tool for nurses to bring increased efficiency to their jobs, and while there are many exciting developments coming out of the healthcare tech industry, including those that make nurses jobs easier, it’s probably safe to say that you won’t be out of a job anytime soon.

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