Skip to content

Deborah Behan and the robotic aide

Faculty Rounds

Deborah Behan and the robotic aide her team is developing.

Robotic Assist

Nurses' aide of the future could be a robot

Nurses could soon get help with everything from taking vital signs to lifting patients—from a robot.

"This is not replacing nurses. It's about assisting nurses," says Deborah Behan, a clinical associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. "Workplace injuries are very common for nurses because they are constantly pushing and pulling, and their backs can easily be injured. A robot may be able to prevent back injuries."

Dr. Behan is developing the robot with a team of researchers. Her collaborators include Texas Health Resources, the UTA Research Institute, and former UTA faculty member Dan Popa, who is now with the University of Louisville. The team's work is funded by a $999,946 National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation grant.

One year into the three-year partnership, the team has developed a machine that does not yet look like a person, but resides in a lab that resembles a hospital room. The robot is being designed to take on functions such as sitting with confused patients, pushing a bed down the hall, fetching water for patients, lifting and turning patients with the nurse, and pushing an IV pole for a patient post-surgery while charting the event in the electronic health record.

All of these functions could help nurses continue working without injury, ensuring greater care to patients. Beth Mancini, senior associate dean for education innovation, says the collaboration could encourage more research across departments at UTA.

"It bodes well for future collaboration to address important problems in health care," Dr. Mancini says.