Nurse Practitioners vs. Robots – A Healthy Competition or Downright Hazard in Healthcare?

Humans and their obsession with technology is a story with a lot of chapters still left unwritten. But, technology is vital, especially in healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and other industries. 

Many are pondering whether robots or AI would replace humans in their professional roles. And as for the nursing industry, will robots relieve nurses of their position?

2023 looks safe, but what about the future? Read on to find out. 

Evolution of Nursing 

The modern definition of a “nurse” has gone through significant changes to be where it is today. From the work of Florence Nightingale and her helpers in the Crimean War to the establishment of the standard nursing curriculum in 1915, there are various milestones in nursing education and practice.

But the roles that nurse practitioners and other nurses play today weren’t the same back then. It was after World War II that significant developments took place, where nurses took on new responsibilities. The format of training changed, and gradually more nursing programs were developed. By the 1950s, nursing was being adopted as a serious profession. 

There have been further developments in how nurses practice and undergo training in the last two decades. The world’s most renowned institutes now offer educational programs specifically designed to educate and train nurses to cope with the advancements of their profession. However, many of these courses follow the traditional educational system, often making them tedious and time-consuming.

A significant event has been the introduction of accelerated nursing programs, such as ABSN and MENP.  If you meet the accelerated nursing program requirements, you can graduate much faster than regular courses. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need for nurses and online education. Naturally, these programs are now more significant than ever.  

With the help of institutions like Elmhurst University, candidates can take their first step toward being a nurse (nurse practitioner or otherwise). These institutions offer a fully online curriculum while ensuring physical placements at local sites. 

While this has been the story so far, the nursing industry is soon going to experience a robust influx of robotic technology. Not that there aren’t such already, but the future is going to be more dramatic. 

Three Prime Reasons Why Robots Can’t Ever Replace Nurses

Following are the three main reasons why even the most advanced technology and efficient robots will not be able to replace human nurse practitioners anytime soon:

The Human factor

Humans have always needed care, for which there have been nurses in some way or the other. And a fundamental aspect of that has been receiving care from another human. Empathy, emotions, and compassion are prime qualities in a nurse practitioner that a robot will never be able to copy. 

Their best attempts to replicate these attributes would only make it feel less “fake”. Sure, technology has made it easier to book appointments, create databases of patients, improve survival rates, and so on. But in the end, it is still a human that a patient looks forward to for their care, not a machine.

And chances are, this might never change no matter how superior and advanced robots emerge in the nursing industry. 

Communication Skills

Nurse practitioners and those of other grades generally possess excellent communication skills where they actively listen and understand patient requirements. This allows them to provide care at a deeper level. Since each patient is different, nurses, through communication, cater to the various concerns of their patients. 

Moreover, these patients often find a friend in nurses with whom they can engage in conversations, even intimate ones. 

Robots can share and collect data, and they might even be more efficient at this. But they cannot fulfill the fundamental role of a human nurse. And that is establishing a connection with the patient. 

Robots Cannot Help with Loneliness

Smartphones, computers, and other electronic gadgets – the more one adds these to their life, the lonelier it gets. What had begun as a means to pass the time is now a way to avoid loneliness which ironically has technology as a root cause. 

A robot, even with all its efficiency, can never understand how lonely patients can be or how they deal with their inner battles. This gets even more complex for patients with mental illnesses and conditions like depression, where emotional support can often be a deciding factor in the prognosis and even save lives. 

Sure, there are therapeutic robots that might be able to mimic human affection or nurse practitioners that couldn’t care less. But this does not undermine the efforts of those that do care and try to make their patients feel better, even if it means having a conversation to make them feel less lonely. 

What’s the Answer, Then? A Relationship of Cooperation

There are already robots today whose roles in nursing and the overall healthcare industry look promising. However, it is best not to consider them as competition but as tools that will aid professional nurses in their roles. This includes administrative and physically intensive tasks, among others. 

AI and technology will be eating up jobs; that much is certain. And yet, aspiring or practicing nurses should not have to reconsider their career choice anytime soon.

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