9/23/2013 6:05 PM
by Karen Franklin
BECKLEY - Something roaming the halls of a Raleigh County medical center is making patients do a double take. It talks and drives, but it's not a person.
Hospital staff at the Beckley VA Medical Center do their jobs with help from TUG.
"Sometimes with staffing, you can't just leave the floor at anytime, especially in emergency situations, so it really, really, helps to have that where it can just come pick it up and take it where you need to go," Nurse Kimberly Byrge said.
The TUGs, named after tug boats, are programmed robots that roam the hospital floors delivering medications and lab specimens. Nurses think they also boost patient morale.
"Patients are like, 'What is this talking robot, and how cool is that?' So they really like it.'"
Pharmacist Diana Betkijian also uses TUG.
"You'll see veterans stopping and kind of taking a glance at him and try to figure out exactly what he's doing," she told Newswatch.
If you've ever wondered if tug gets in the way, he doesn't.
"If anything gets close enough to TUG, he'll tell them to kindly step out of the way," Betkijian said. "He has a range on him that lets him know that something's close enough to him that he might run into it."
Directed by computer monitors, TUGs can travel through elevators and around obstacles without human assistance. For some, it's another employee.
"Because it does make things so much more efficient, it is a wonderful tool, so anything they can make motorized is great," Byrge said.