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Imagine That! - Robonurse

Imagine That!
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Imagine That! - Robonurse

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

You didn't see her in last week's episodes of Scrubs or ER, but there's a new operating room nurse on the block -- she's a robot.

Imagine that!

(SOUND: operating room)

Today the scene is Columbia's New York Presbyterian Hospital.

(SOUND: surgeon & robot dialog)

Handing a scalpel to the surgeon when he calls for a scalpel and not a sponge or a clamp, is Penelope, the world's first robot scrub nurse with voice recognition and intelligent vision.

Penelope's creator is surgeon and robot builder Michael Treat from the Robotic Surgical Tech Company.

(SOUND: operating room)

Treat: "I hope the Penelope will be remembered as the first of its kind, really, a kind of "Model T" or Wright brothers airplane."

That's because Treat wants to free nurses to do more "human" tasks while easing the burden on nurses and addressing the problem of a nursing shortage.

Besides handing tools off to the surgeon, Penelope also retrieves instruments once the surgeon is finished using them, and even monitors the number of surgical instruments on the table and in use to make sure that none are left behind during a procedure. Like an experienced human nurse, Penelope anticipates the surgeon's next needed tool, and is able to learn the instrument preferences of different surgeons.

Penelope the robotic nurse. Now ready to go into "operation." I'm Eric Philips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at

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