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Clinical Systems Leadership

Are Japanese Robot Bears the Future of Nursing Technology?

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In many futuristic science fiction movies, doctors and nurses are replaced with hyper-intelligent robots that can effortlessly heal people. While there’s no evidence that robots will ever replace nurses or the element of care that they deliver to patients, new technology suggests that robots may soon be helping nurses with some manual labor.

Scientists from Japan’s research institute RIKEN announced an experimental robot resembling a bear can help with elder care. The ROBEAR is designed to lift patients, from places such as a bed to a wheelchair, saving nurses from difficult labor.

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Future of nursing?
The ROBEAR is not the first medical robot that RIKEN and Sumitomo Riko Company Limited have worked on. The RIBA and RIBA-II were created for similar purposes, but the ROBEAR is superior over the previous models because of its focus on gentle care.

Just like an actual nurse, the ROBEAR is designed to make the transition from a bed to the wheelchair pleasant and safe. RIKEN explained that the robot is made of rubber and covered in force-sensing components that allow it to react to the weight and form of a patient. The robot is also smaller, lighter and therefore more maneuverable around a hospital or home.

While the designers made the robot with the soft touch of a human, it won’t face the physical limitations and pain that many care givers and nurses in Japan do when taking care of immobile patients.

“With its rapidly increasing elderly population, Japan faces an urgent need for new approaches to assist care-giving personnel,” RIKEN explained in a statement about the ROBEAR. “One of the most strenuous tasks for such personnel, carried out an average of 40 times every day, is that of lifting a patient from a bed into a wheelchair. This is a major cause of lower back pain. Robots are well-suited to this task, yet none have yet been deployed in care-giving facilities.”

While the ROBEAR is still in experimental phases, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that, down the road, nurses will be using robots to assist with some of the most basic aspects of care.

Nursing technology
New technology has transformed the way doctors and nurses see patients. From diagnostic software to electronic health records, new hardware and software has become a critical part of health care. Many nurses even get their master’s degrees in nursing with a focus on information technology.

According to Modern Healthcare magazine, nurses with a background in information technology are quickly becoming some of the most important figures in health care. Because nurses are often the biggest users of EHRs and other software, a person with a background as both a registered nurse and a software expert is invaluable in transitioning to EHRs, developing new software and improving technology for care.

Earning an advanced degree in information technology as a nurse is not only a lucrative career move, but it can also help nurses shape the way that technology improves patient interaction and overall care.

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