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Applicability of AI and Robots to Nursing

Future nursing practices are anticipated to be significantly impacted by robots and artificial intelligence (AI). In this regard, Japanese researchers wonder if intelligent devices can replace nurses. They look into how robotics and AI developments could replicate the values associated with nurses, such as advocacy, responsibility, teamwork, and care.

Applicability of AI and Robots in Nursing Practice

Image Credit: Gorodenkoff/

Although these technologies have the potential to improve healthcare procedures, nursing needs to be carefully taken into account when integrating them.

Recent developments in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) indicate that these technologies will become more prevalent in society in the future.

Recent advancements, such as the introduction of driverless vehicles, the capacity to produce unique artwork, and the development of chatbots capable of having dialogues that are human-like, illustrate the vast potential of these technologies.

While there are many advantages to these developments, they also raise some fundamental issues. AI is currently replicating traits that were formerly thought to be exclusive to humans, such as creativity, communication, critical thinking, and learning. Can intelligent machines, therefore, be referred to as “human?”

Associate Professor Tomohide Ibuki from Tokyo University of Science recently investigated whether robots and AI can be trusted with nursing, a highly compassionate profession, in cooperation with medical ethics researcher Dr. Eisuke Nakazawa from The University of Tokyo and nursing researcher Dr. Ai Ibuki from Kyoritsu Women's University. On June 12th, 2023, their study was made available online and published in the journal Nursing Ethics.

This study in applied ethics examines whether robotics, human engineering, and human intelligence technologies can and should replace humans in nursing tasks.

Tomohide Ibuki, Associate Professor, Tokyo University of Science

With their patients, nurses build enduring relationships and show empathy. The development of a sense of empathy, trust, and emotional support depends on human contact.

The researchers replicated the ethical principles associated with human nurses, such as advocacy, accountability, cooperation, and care, to see if the current breakthroughs in robots and AI can implement these human attributes.

In nursing, advocacy entails speaking out for patients to make sure they get the best care possible. This includes protecting patients from medical errors, giving treatment information, taking into account a patient’s choices, and serving as a liaison between the patient and the hospital.

The researchers observed that while AI can educate patients about medical errors and give treatment options, they questioned its capacity to properly comprehend and empathize with patients’ values as well as to successfully traverse human relationships as mediators.

Concerns regarding holding robots accountable for their acts were also raised by the researchers. They recommended the creation of explainable AI, which would give users insights into how AI systems make decisions, enhancing accountability.

The report also emphasizes the necessity for nurses to work successfully with their colleagues and other healthcare professionals to provide patients with the best treatment possible. Unfamiliarity with robots can result in less-than-ideal interactions since humans rely on visual signals to develop connections and establish trust.

Recognizing this problem, the researchers stressed the significance of undertaking additional research to establish the ideal appearance of robots for promoting effective collaboration with human medical workers.

The patient must be ready to accept robots as care providers even though robots and AI can comprehend a patient’s emotions and deliver appropriate treatment.

The researchers recognize that while robots may not completely replace human nurses anytime soon, they do not rule out the possibility after taking into account the aforementioned four ethical principles in nursing.

While the use of robots and AI has the potential to lessen the nursing shortage and enhance patient outcomes, these technologies must be used with careful consideration of their ethical implications and potential effects on nursing practice.

Dr. Ibuki concluded, “While the present analysis does not preclude the possibility of implementing the ethical concepts of nursing in robots and AI in the future, it points out that there are several ethical questions. Further research could not only help solve them but also lead to new discoveries in ethics.

Here is hoping for such creative applications of robots and AI to emerge soon.

Journal Reference

Ibuki, T., et al. (2023) Possibilities and ethical issues of entrusting nursing tasks to robots and artificial intelligence. Nursing Ethics. doi:10.1177/09697330221149094.


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