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MIT-Developed Robot Helps Nurses Make Decisions

BOSTON (CBS) – Robots in the operating room are nothing new—but now, a robot named Ginger has been specifically designed to help nurses.

Kristen Jerrier works on the Labor and Delivery floor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She's the resource nurse, which pretty much means she's in charge.

"I usually decide which nurse will take that patient, what room they'll go to and I'm usually talking to the physician about what that patient might need," she says.

mallika marshall robot nurse assistant Kristen Jerrier
Resource nurse Kristen Jerrier. (WBZ-TV)

And when it comes to the business of delivering babies, things can get hectic real fast.

"Your volume can change in an instant," Jerrier says. "We often say, oh, you know, the bus of pregnant ladies just got off!"

"These are very, very hard jobs," says MIT's Julie Shah, who develops artificial intelligence or AI.  AI is essentially the brain inside a machine.

Her team studied how employees like Jerrier make decisions about staffing and patient assignments and designed the AI in this little robot, named Ginger, to see if it could anticipate their needs.

robot nurse ginger mallika marshall
Ginger, a robot specifically designed to help nurses.(WBZ-TV)

"What we found was that the suggestions of the robot were accepted 90 percent of the time, which was very exciting for us," said Julie.

Dr. Neel Shah is an obstetrician at Beth Israel Deaconess—and Julie's husband.

"Once you get to a certain level of being awesome at your job, if you're Michael Jordan, we can't just tell you how to Michael Jordan," he says. "But right after he does something on the basketball court he can tell you why he did it, and really that's sort of how Julie's technology works."

mallika marshall robot nurse assistant
Obstetrician Dr. Neel Shah and MIT's Julie Shah. (WBZ-TV)

Kristen says she was surprised how well the robot's decisions aligned with hers.  And while she doesn't think the robot could ever replace her she says, "Anybody who wants to take a little bit off my shoulders is good for me."

The next step is to test the robot in hospitals across the country, with the hope of putting it into real practice within a couple of years.

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