Nurses could soon be assisted in their jobs by robotic helpers, according to US researchers.
Healthcare providers were asked for their views on machines that are currently being developed with the potential to carry out basic tasks such as housework, feeding and walking.
And while you could be forgiven for thinking that nurses and nursing assistants may be wary of the robots, viewing them as potential replacements, more than half of those surveyed said they would prefer a robotic assistant to a human.
However, the Georgia Institute of Technology study found that while many healthcare assistants were happy for the robots to help them carry out certain tasks, they were opposed to them assisting with others.
For example, respondents were broadly keen for the robots to help out with instrumental activities of daily living like helping with housework and reminding patients when to take their medication, but they were against assistance with direct physical interactions such as bathing and feeding patients and helping them get dressed. For these tasks they said human assistants would be more appropriate.
Study leader Tracy Mitzner said: “One open question was whether healthcare providers would reject the idea of robotic assistants out of fear that the robots would replace them in the workplace.
“This doesn’t appear to be a significant concern. In fact, the professional caregivers we interviewed viewed robots as a way to improve their jobs and the care they’re able to give patients.
“Robots aren’t being designed to eliminate people. Instead, they can help reduce physical demands and workloads.
“Hopefully, our study helps create guidelines for developers and facilitates deployment into the healthcare industry. It doesn’t make sense to build robots that won’t be accepted by the end user.”
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