President’s Column: What an AI Robot Taught Me About Nursing Innovation

Apr 02, 2020

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I read and hear the buzz about innovation regularly. I’m intrigued, but most of the time I don’t always have time to dig deeper. I feel like I’m continually playing catch-up on the latest innovative change.

However, recently I welcomed a new tech-savvy co-worker called Moxi. Moxi zips around the halls quietly, with ease and purpose, in the background. Moxi is a healthcare robot assistant that my hospital introduced last fall.

As a robot assistant to nurses, Moxi helps with the non-patient-saving facing tasks such as gathering supplies and delivering admission kits, lab samples and blood, freeing nurses for more direct patient care time. Moxi is the first socially intelligent robot using artificial intelligence (AI) for hospitals that can complete tasks independently with its mobile base, navigational sensors, flexible arm and precise gripper hand. (Read about Moxi in the June 2019 issue of Bold Voices, page 21.)

I’d heard about this. I knew this was on the horizon in healthcare. But, what does it mean to my practice and my team? Am I ready to accept this innovation into my practice?

There is a full spectrum of nursing innovations from incremental to radical. Incremental changes are almost constant, but radical change is born from new ideas and often involves revolutionary technology.

As Moxi glides past me in the halls, I know healthcare robots are a radical transformation. What will nursing look like in 2030? There will be ideas such as block-chain credentialing, where nurses can store all their documents, educational history, licensures, references and even reviews from patients and colleagues in a medium that is secure and shareable with other employers. Or, data-based learning and scheduling apps with push notifications to meet the flexible scheduling needs of nurses.

But, often, these radical ideas come from industry rather than nursing. In some sense, technology and innovation are unstoppable. I am open to all evidence-based ideas, but let’s not forget one thing I believe to be true: Nurses know best. Nurses generate outstanding ideas to create the solutions that patients, families and nurses need for better outcomes, shorter lengths of stay, safety and satisfaction.

Leadership author Margaret J. Wheatley says, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” So, I invite dialogue with our community to express how we can make time and space to welcome new, radical ideas. The best innovations are born when nurses have the meaningful time to be fully engaged and involved in innovation and technology at all stages: development, evaluation and translation at point of care.

I am just starting to learn to work with Moxi. I know Moxi is well trained and vetted. In this new world of nursing, balancing innovation, technology and the important, fundamental humanistic side of nursing will offer learning opportunities for both humans and AI technology in the future.

I’d like to know your thoughts and feelings about AI, innovation and technology in our profession. Email me at