SINCE FEBRUARY, THE nurses at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia, have had an extra assistant on their shifts: Moxi, a nearly 6-foot-tall robot that ferries medication, supplies, lab samples, and personal items through the halls, from floor to floor. After two years of battling Covid-19 and related burnout, nurses say it’s been a welcome relief.
“There’s two levels of burnout: There’s ‘we’re short this weekend’ burnout, and then there’s pandemic burnout, which our care teams are experiencing right now,” says Abigail Hamilton, a former ICU and emergency room nurse that manages nursing staff support programs at the hospital.
Moxi is one of several specialized delivery robots that has been developed in recent years to ease the strain on health care workers. Even before the pandemic, nearly half of US nurses felt that their workplace lacked adequate work–life balance. The emotional toll of seeing patients die and colleagues infected at such a large scale—and fear of bringing Covid-19 home to family—has made feelings of burnout worse. Studies also found that burnout can have long-term consequences for nurses, including cognitive impacts and insomnia years after the exhaustion of their early careers. The world already had a nurse shortage going into the pandemic; now, roughly two out of three nurses in the US say they have considered leaving the profession, according to a survey from the National Nurses United union.