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Welcoming immigrants and robots to fill the nursing shortage

David E Williams

In a report this week, Nursing crisis looms as baby boomers age, CNN Money repeats a well-known story:   there are unlikely to be enough nurses to take care of people as they age. Nursing schools can’t keep up with the demand and trouble awaits. We’ll face a shortage of 260,000 RNs by 2025, we’re told.

I don’t really believe it’s such a big deal.

There are two good solutions to the problem, and they aren’t mutually exclusive:

  1. Increase the recruitment of nurses from abroad
  2. Substitute technology for labor

The first option is already in effect to some extent. But anti-immigrant attitudes and rules limit the number of non-US nurses here. There are also an ethical considerations; when nurses from middle income countries like South Africa and Thailand come to the US, it creates a shortage of nurses in those countries. Some of those shortages are filled by bringing nurses from poor countries to middle income countries. That leaves the poor countries bereft at a time of tough challenges such as HIV and TB.

The second solution essentially means replacing at least some nurses (or some of their functions) with technology, including robots. A lot of things nurses do will be doable by machine, if not this year then certainly by 2025. These robots will take many forms, but one could certainly be as a “personal medical assistant” that handles most mundane functions. It could check vitals, provide encouragement, remind patients to take their medications, and go beyond those tasks to other areas, such as playing games, cleaning the house, making food, and even engaging in pleasant conversation.

This technology trend shouldn’t encounter too much resistance from nurses, who after all should still have plenty of opportunities for employment.

The nursing workforce issues are real, but they provide opportunities for innovation, not cause for panic.

David E. Williams is co-founder of MedPharma Partners LLC, strategy consultant in technology enabled health care services, pharma,  biotech, and medical devices. Formerly with BCG and LEK. He blogs regularly at the Health Business Blog, where this post first appeared.

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Mbah MentojoyExperiencedRNDebbieHealh IT Recent comment authors
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Mbah Mento
Guest

Like in malaysia, we are shortage of nursing home staff and baby sitter.
Sometime foreign staff are cheaper than local staf in term of salary wiyh same quality of job.
For me, nursing home service is importance to the current modern lifestyle.
Cheers
http://www.nursinghome.bestrealinfo.com/index.htm

joy
Guest
joy

can th gov help foriegn nurses with work permit so we can help the people of haiti please.

Jack
Guest
Jack

“Your ideas are hilarious, really. I’m laughing. What a joke. Happy blogging..” “Mr. Williams is so illinformed a clueless about what is really going on in nursing and nursing employment that it is truly laughable.” I know something more laughable and hilarious… people criticizing someone w/o giving their own ideas. That’s what’s laughable. Look at the two “RNs” before you. They showed how ignorant they are and how wrong they are with all those cheap labor accusations. Oh wait, maybe that’s why you two don’t bother to give you own ideas and couldn’t even point out exactly what is laughable… Read more »

ExperiencedRN
Guest
ExperiencedRN

Mr. Williams is so illinformed a clueless about what is really going on in nursing and nursing employment that it is truly laughable.

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

Your ideas are hilarious, really. I’m laughing. What a joke. Happy blogging..

Healh IT
Guest

I’m all for Health IT . However, healthcare will always need nurses (real, live, breathing, living, nurses). I believe that healthcare will overall be benefited by Healthcare Technology but rather than believing that “robots” will take over healthcare and eventually the earth… we all need to (I can’t believe i’m saying this) get along and work together. 🙂 Let the robots and humans work together as one… cheesy, yes, I know.

Gary Lampman
Guest
Gary Lampman

Why not a self serve lane . First window collects your billing and insurance information from a embedded chip. Then, you pull up to the machine,Scanning your hand with a Bar Code Reader and another input device reads your implanted Medical Chip that has all your medical Data on it. It will give a list of symptoms that you will input. Sensors do a full body scan that reads vitals.The Doctor takes a glance at you at the second window,inputs script data and a copy of the script is issued like receipt paper. Machines are not flawless and neither are… Read more »

Acai Berry
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CWH RN, MS
Guest
CWH RN, MS

Mr. Williams, Why stop at nurses ? Let’s develop robots to replace overpaid pharmacists. After all, how hard can it be to count and pour. And while we are at it let’s replace P.T. and O.T. as well. what about routine legal services ? Your article is inaccurate. Nursing isn’t just tasks..it involves decision making and critical thinking. Taking accurate Vital Signs and evaluating Vital Signs involves some knowledge. For example, if a patient’s BP is running a little low, but has previously been high with a different cuff, you should ask yourself why? Is the new cuff too big… Read more »

Jack
Guest
Jack

“The Health Care Industry, with the assistance of the US Federal Government, has manipulated the nursing labor market, through a multitude of overt and covert means, for many years for the purpose of maintaining poor working conditions, low wages, and poor job security with the object of reducing nursing labor costs. Given the aforementioned hostile and conspiratorial attitude by the health care industry and the US Federal government against American nurses, American nurses should leave nursing and advice American citizens to avoid nursing. The following is the URL of a Wikipedia article which, in my opinion, accurately describes the causes… Read more »

C.V. Compton Shaw
Guest
C.V. Compton Shaw

The Health Care Industry, with the assistance of the US Federal Government, has manipulated the nursing labor market, through a multitude of overt and covert means, for many years for the purpose of maintaining poor working conditions, low wages, and poor job security with the object of reducing nursing labor costs. Given the aforementioned hostile and conspiratorial attitude by the health care industry and the US Federal government against American nurses, American nurses should leave nursing and advice American citizens to avoid nursing. The following is the URL of a Wikipedia article which, in my opinion, accurately describes the causes… Read more »

Jack
Guest
Jack

“I just love it when people who do not work directly in the health care delivery system seem to believe they know exactly what the correct recipes are for improvements.” I also love it when so-called people that work directly in HC believes that what they think is exactly correct or even feasible. I also love it when they think no one can figure it out other than HC workers only. Really now, does it really take a rocket scientist to know exactly the problem is and what are the possible solutions. No one needs to be in direct HC… Read more »

jack
Guest
jack

“You do not take care of sick people do you. The mindset Mr Williams promotes is the same one that put our economy in the tank.” ACTUALLY I DO. Just because I agree with some of what he says already leads you to conclude that I don’t take care of sick people? For all you know I may be a doctor or even a nurse like you. You think all doctors and nurses think alike and should think like you?? So, now are you going to make some lame excuse for yourself and the other guy I responded to? Tell… Read more »

NurseBob
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NurseBob

Jack,
You do not take care of sick people do you.
The mindset Mr Williams promotes is the same one that put our economy in the tank.

Jack
Guest
Jack

“Sucking scarce nursing personpower out of the third world to satisfy our insatiable demand for nurses is an irresponsible and unsustainable solution to our problem. They are needed in the countries where they grew up. If as much as a third or more of medical care in our country is unnecessary or of marginal benefit, and as little as a third of our present nursing time is actually spent with patients, we need to make much more efficient use of the nurses we have before worsening the supply of critically needed nurses in their countries of origin.” There are actually… Read more »