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Why Do Nursing Students Cheat?

It might seem like a quick fix, but cheating students likely won't evolve into stellar nurses.

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 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 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.

Nurturing New Nurses Archives
  Last Post: June 23, 2010 | View Comments(3)

Cheating in my high school was prevalent (and accepted by many student and teacher witnesses), but the college I attended had an honor code. The honor code required a signature on every assignment stating you had not cheated nor allowed anyone else to cheat. In this culture, of cheating being unacceptable, I was transformed from one that might have cheated to cheating being out of the question. Cheating no longer exists as a possibility in my personality.

Years later when I attended nursing school I was surprised by a faculty culture that brought cheating back to my consciousness. While in college no faculty stayed in the classroom to monitor during a test. In my nursing school they brought in as many faculty members as they could round up during every test from day one through graduation. The message was we expect you will cheat, but you should expect to get caught. There was a pre-existing atmosphere that people here cheat and so cheating happened and was observed and became not odd but common-place in this culture.

It's amazing to me that the application and acceptance into nursing school appears to have a very high standard, but the expectation for the integrity of the student body is as low as it is. Given the role student nurses will play beginning during first semester and hopefully then for years to come I wouldn't think cheating should be treated like an expectation.

When confronting my faculty about my observation they presented a learned helplessness view. If nursing students are held to the standard of liars, cheats and thieves that may be part of the problem. Asking humans to rise to a better self and expecting them to do so is maybe a first step.

chris June 23, 2010

It sadden me as an experienced nurse of over 25 years [with 14 years as an Educator] to say the least that any nursing students, or other students for that matter, who take the route to cheat regardless of the reason[s] has questionable morals/ethics. I recently attended a conference where one of the topics was entitled "Cheating 101." One of the main points was that cheating has become very high tech. So much so, that there are sites on the web detailing how to successfully cheat. I personally feel if the student would take that negative cheating energy and put it into studying more, then she or he would be much better off as a productive adult in today’s demanding society, simple concept but true...... Sherlyn

Sherlyn Far-Bar,  Educator,  GCCJune 23, 2010
Locust Grove, VA

For several years, I taught both clinical lab & classroom in a baccaulaureate program in the Southeast US. I was appalled at how much cheating occurred with apparent impunity. The cheating almost had to occur under the nose of the dean before anything could be done! I think it was tolerated because the school was desperate for students & the administration was very liberal in accepting & forgiving bad behavior from the student. Also, I think the students, at that time, thought what they learned in academia was not important & that they would get everything they needed when they graduated & started working in the hospital. Many students thought school was just a tiresome obstacle that had to be endured, they were not motivated, so they studied very little. Fortunately, most of the students I worked with were interested & hard-working. At one point, several of then came to a group of faculty to report that a fellow classmate had been cheating regularly, had not been caught, & they were fed up. They wanted something done! I also think that litigation fears keep schools from carrying out their policies about cheating.

Lila June 17, 2010


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