Hospital Robots Are Helping Combat a Wave of Nurse Burnout
Moxi and other delivery-focused assistants have become even more critical as the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed health care workers to their limits.
Meet Moxi, a nearly 6-foot-tall robot that ferries medication, supplies, lab samples, and personal items through the halls, from floor to floor. After two years of battling Covid-19 and related burnout, nurses say it’s been a welcome relief.
Moxi is one of several specialized delivery robots that has been developed in recent years to ease the strain on health care workers. Even before the pandemic, nearly half of North American nurses felt that their workplace lacked adequate work–life balance. The emotional toll of seeing patients die and colleagues infected at such a large scale—and fear of bringing Covid-19 home to family—has made feelings of burnout worse.
In some places the shortage is leading to higher wages for permanent staff and for temporary travel nurses. In countries such as Finland, nurses are demanding better pay and going on strike. But it’s also paved the way for more robots in health care settings.
At the forefront of this trend is Moxi, which has spent the pandemic rolling down the halls of some of the largest hospitals, carrying objects like a smartphone or beloved teddy bear to patients in emergency rooms when Covid-19 protocol kept family members from bedsides.
A range of robots have been developed in recent years to carry out health care tasks like disinfecting hospital wards or assisting physical therapists. Robots that touch people—like Robear, which helped lift elderly people out of bed in Japan—remain largely experimental, due in part to liability and regulatory requirements. Far more common are specialized delivery robots.