Using Double Robotics for a NICU Simulated Experience

By: Jean Ellen Zavertnik and Nancy Meehan

Can nursing students benefit from hands-on use of technology in a freshman informatics course using the Double Robotics device?

Yes, feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive. We want to share this course assignment with you and tell you how student develop a beginning understanding of the positive and negative aspects of technology in health care.

Using Double Robotics - NICU2Objective: To understand the challenges that arise when using digital technology to communicate.


  1. Review how the Double Robotics device is being used in health care and review three case studies using the robot:
  2. Autism Spectrum Disorder Research
  3. Homebound Student Attends School via Double Robot
  4. Telemedicine at University of Maine Medical School

What do you see as the advantages/disadvantages of using the robot to enhance health care? How is this device used to visit patients? What might be additional uses for this device to address access issues in health care?

  1. In groups of three, sign up online for a 45-minute period. Two students need to take on the role of the parents while one student will be the NICU nurse with the baby. Students will communicate via the robot (Zoe). Using Zoe, the parents will be able to see their baby up close.


The patient is a newborn baby girl with isolation precautions. Only health care professionals are allowed to enter the room.

Parents: very distraught and unsure about using technology to communicate.

Doctor/nurse: Must explain the role of technology in this type of isolation situation.

Using Double Robotics - NICU1

Results: Following the simulated experience, students are asked two questions.  Below are the questions and some student responses.

  1. In NICU nurse’s role, what do you think is the most important information that you can give families prior to using this technology?
  • Clarify that this machine is an intermediator between the parents and the baby. It is not meant to replace the parent in any way.
  • The device is easy to use and easy to maneuver. The robot gives the parents the opportunity to visit their baby and see her in real time.
  • Give the parents exact information about the procedures or treatments being performed
  • Make sure the parents know that this is a safe way to interact with their baby.
  • Let them know beforehand what the baby’s condition is so they are not startled by how she looks. Inform them that the picture quality is not going to be as good as in person.
  1. In the parents’ role, what would be most difficult about using the virtual presence, Zoe?
  • Not being able to hold the baby and actually give her human touch and love.
  • No matter what happens through the monitor and what they see, the parents cannot do anything about it. The parents cannot hold the baby or comfort her if she begins to cry.
  • They cannot physically touch their baby. The encounter is almost a tease for the parents.
  • Seeing the baby in pain, without being with her in person.

We had about 100 students over about 4-5 days in the lab. As with many simulated experiences, scheduling this small group activity for large numbers of students can be daunting.  However, the benefit can be rewarding for both the instructor and the students. These freshman students have an opportunity to experience the challenges of technology and gain a better understanding of the role of technology in health care communication.

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