Nurses Protest AI Use In Hospitals, "Trust Nurses, Not AI"

4 Min Read Published April 24, 2024
Nurses Protest AI Use In Hospitals, "Trust Nurses, Not AI"

Hundreds of registered nurses from the California Nurses Association took to the streets in protest outside Kaiser Permanente's San Francisco hospital on April 22, 2024. Their many signs displayed messages like, “Trust nurses, not AI.”

Their primary concern? The accelerating adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) tools in healthcare settings without proper safeguards.

Is AI Being Rushed Into Healthcare?

National Nurses United, the largest nursing union in the U.S., expressed their concerns about rushed healthcare AI in a press release notifying the public of the plan to protest. 

“Nurses are all for tech that enhances our skills and the patient care experience. But what we are witnessing in our hospitals is the degradation and devaluation of our nursing practice through the use of these untested technologies. As patient advocates, we are obligated to speak out. We demand that workers and unions be involved at every step of the development of data-driven technologies and be empowered to decide whether and how AI is deployed in the workplace.” said Michelle Gutierrez Vo, who is a nurse at Kaiser’s San Francisco Hospital and a CNA president.


According to California Nurses Association President Cathy Kennedy, healthcare employers are rapidly implementing AI systems without thoroughly vetting them first. "We're seeing AI tools being rushed into hospitals and clinics across California with little oversight or regulation," Kennedy stated at the protest. "Nurses have valid concerns that patient safety could be compromised if this technology is blindly trusted and not subject to rigorous clinical testing."

The nurses' union claims there have already been instances where AI diagnostic tools provided incorrect analyses that could have led to patient harm if not caught by an attentive healthcare professional. They argue that a "human-still-in-the-loop" approach is crucial as AI cannot fully replace the clinical expertise and judgment of nurses and doctors.

In December 2023, Kaiser Permanente revealed that it had allocated grants of up to $750,000 to five healthcare organizations. These grants were intended to support projects focused on deploying AI and machine learning algorithms aimed at improving diagnostic decision-making in healthcare.

Kaiser released the following statement to local news following the protest, "“Our physicians and care teams are always at the center of decision-making with our patients. We believe that AI may be able to help our physicians and employees and enhance our members’ experience. As an organization dedicated to inclusiveness and health equity, we ensure the results from AI tools are correct and unbiased; AI does not replace human assessment.”

Kaiser also released an article titled, Fostering Responsible AI in Healthcare. The article outlines how with the right policies and partnerships AI could lead to higher quality, more equitable care. 

AI Healthcare Regulation

On October 30th, President Joe Biden issued an executive order instructing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to craft guidelines and oversight protocols for artificial intelligence systems employed in healthcare. This comprehensive policy marks the initial endeavor to regulate AI within the healthcare sector, with the goal of fostering responsible AI development that safeguards individuals' rights and privacy.

The executive order advocates for workplace equity and establishes data security standards for AI. Healthcare institutions will be required to adhere to the updated regulations by disclosing their methodologies and applications of AI technology. Biden aims to ensure that AI is implemented impartially, devoid of biases, and does not exacerbate existing disparities.

Nurses React

The topic of AI in healthcare has started to become a more prominent discussion topic on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Here is an interesting perspective from Rich G Kenny, MMCi, RN

A Rapidly Accelerating Trend

The timing of the CNA protest highlights the urgency of the issue, as AI adoption across the healthcare industry continues rapidly accelerating. According to research, the global AI market for healthcare is projected to grow to $11 billion by 2030.

AI tools are being developed for a wide range of healthcare use cases, from automating administrative tasks to augmenting clinical decision support. Some of the major AI healthcare applications gaining traction include:

  • Medical Imaging Analysis: AI systems can analyze X-rays, CT scans, and other medical images to detect abnormalities and assist radiologists.
  • Clinical Decision Support: AI can integrate patient data to provide diagnostic recommendations and personalized treatment plans.
  • Drug Discovery: Pharmaceutical companies use AI to help identify new drug candidates and optimize clinical trials.
  • Patient Monitoring: AI algorithms can monitor patients' vital signs and alert healthcare staff to any concerning changes.
  • Workflow Optimization: AI can help streamline hospital operations by optimizing staffing, scheduling, supply chains and more.

As the capabilities of AI grow more sophisticated, many nurses believe it's critical to get governance right from the start to ensure it enhances rather than undermines patient care. Only time will tell if protests like these prompt healthcare leaders and policymakers to establish stronger guardrails around AI implementation.

Angelina Walker
Angelina Walker
Director of Nursing Content and Social Media

Angelina has her finger on the pulse of everything nursing. Whether it's a trending news topic, valuable resource or, heartfelt story, Angelina is an expert at producing content that nurses love to read. She specializes in warmly engaging with the nursing community and exponentially growing our social presence.

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