As an instructor in a college of nursing, I have many tests to give, papers to grade and check-offs to do. Occasionally during this work - but thankfully not very often - I discover a student who has cheated.
I immediately wonder about the reasons for such behavior. Would it be that the student heated because this person has always done that to get by in school? Maybe she's on the verge of failing and doesn't want to admit that she isn't able to handle nursing school academically. Is he afraid of losing money? Disappointing their parents, peers or teachers?
Whatever the reason, it is morally and ethically wrong. As an instructor, I start to wonder if the person who would cheat in nursing school would make a satisfactory nurse. Would this person end up stealing medications from patients? What about failing to support a coworker that is in need of help in a patient crisis?
Some nursing students might think it easy to cut and paste material from a source and not give credit to the original author. Why would someone do this? Could it be that they ran out of time, ideas or just don't want to be bothered with coming up with an original assignment?
The website www.turnitin.com is used to check for authenticity of a paper. This site is a great teaching tool for students to review their work once their paper has been submitted. The problem is that students will submit their papers and many times they will not bother to read the report. Students can resubmit as many times as possible before the due date to obtain an acceptable score. It is used as a teaching tool so that students will be aware of when they are using someone else's words, and when and how to give credit to the author.
Students must understand the definition of plagiarism. Plagiarism is copying someone's work without giving them credit. It is fine to use another person's work as long as credit is given for their contribution to the paper. Reading an interesting article or paper is something I value. It is disheartening to find a report on www.turnitin.com for which a student has copied a large percentage from a website, another student's paper or a textbook.
What can be done about such behavior? I think schools should always have a zero-tolerance policy for cheating or plagiarism. Students should be held accountable for their behaviors especially in nursing school. What type of nurses will we have in the future? We want nurses that are ethically and morally truthful.
Susan G. Williams is an instructor at the University of South Alabama College of Nursing, Mobile, AL.