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Using Robots to Advance Patient Care

Nurses Leading Innovation
October 11, 2016
Using Robots to Advance Patient Care

Intrigued by the complexity of hospital labor and delivery units, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) designed a robot to learn how to help make scheduling decisions. Kristen A. Jerrier, RN, BSN, CNIV, is a resource nurse in the labor and delivery unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Mass., and was one of 17 physicians and nurses who participated in the CSAIL study. Read on to learn about her experience as a resource nurse, and how participating in research projects like this has strengthened her resolve to give patients the best care possible.

NN: Can you share a little bit about your nursing career journey or career path? How did you end up in labor and delivery nursing?

Kristen: I have spent my entire nursing career at BIDMC, starting out as a new grad working in the General Medicine and Primary Care unit.  After four years of gaining experience there, I followed my true passion and moved to the labor and delivery unit. I have always been interested in women's health and have wanted to help deliver babies since I was a small child.

NN: Why did you decide to participate in this research project?

Kristen: I was very lucky to be the resource nurse many of the nights that the robot was available to be tested.  I knew that it was important for the researchers to get as many people as possible to do trials with the robot's programing, so I not only participated myself, but also encouraged my colleagues to participate by covering their patients so that they could have a turn.

NN: What did you enjoy the most about working with the robot?

Kristen: Any time I can contribute to advancements in medicine or nursing, I always try to participate.  In this particular situation, being able to add my years of experience to the robot's knowledge and seeing how well it learned from the nurses was very rewarding.  It surprised me how similar the robots decisions were to my own most of the time.

NN: What are your thoughts on technology like this impacting the role of a resource nurse?

Kristen: A person's situational awareness can never be replaced with a machine. However, the thought of having a robot that is able to assist resource nurses in making timely and often critical decisions sounds appealing, but I believe that the robot would best be used as a tool instead of a replacement for a nurse's years of experience and understanding. 

NN: How long have you been a nurse, and what significant changes have you seen in the nursing profession since you began practicing?

Kristen: I graduated with my bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree from Simmons College in Boston, Mass., in 2004 and have been working at BIDMC ever since.  I have seen the profession change over and over again, especially working in Boston where we are fortunate to be on the forefront of research. Witnessing and participating in this research and actually seeing the impact it has on patients is very rewarding to me personally.   It makes me proud that I am always giving my patients the best care possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about labor and delivery nursing, visit

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