Doctor of Nursing Student Issues

By the time budding professionals complete their Doctor of Nursing degrees, they will have spent a significant number of years in higher education. Not only does a DNP degree require an impressive time commitment, but it requires a significant financial commitment as well. While the average costs of DNP programs differ depending on whether you're seeking a post-master's DNP or a post-bachelor's DNP, the typical DNP student can expect to spend tens of thousands of dollars on their nursing education.

Those who graduate can anticipate successful careers and will reap the rewards of their hard work. Over time, they'll recoup the time and expense they put towards earning their degree. Unfortunately, many students experience issues that interrupt their progress while they're in their programs. For these students, they risk the prestigious career prospects they'd been betting on, which in turn often translates into losing the ability to pay back their student loans or other debts.

Doctor of Nursing Student Discipline and Performance Concerns

DNP students are held to a strict standard when it comes to academic, professional, and student misconduct. Those who violate their school's conduct codes may become the subject of the investigation or formal hearing, where they'll have to explain or defend their actions or perceived failures. While students may not realize the severity of their case, the truth is that their entire futures could be on the line. Students may be suspended or expelled if they can't adequately defend themselves in disciplinary proceedings.

If you or your loved one needs to defend themselves after they've been accused of misconduct, you need to contact an experienced student defense attorney. Many students believe that they can handle these cases themselves, but this assumption is more often than not a mistake. Your school's administrators won't hesitate to throw the full weight of their resources behind their disciplinary process, and you shouldn't have to go through the ordeal of defending yourself without a competent legal advocate by your side.

Doctor of Nursing Students Accused of Poor Academic Performance

Academic performance differs from issues of academic misconduct, but performance problems can be just as serious as cheating in that the end result may mean you're dismissed from your program. DNP programs require students to meet certain academic benchmarks to continue through their education.

According to the University of Washington’s School of Nursing, for example, satisfactory academic progress within the school's DNP program includes but is not limited to:

  • Maintaining a 3.0 quarterly grade point average
  • Achieving course objectives and earning required course credits
  • Satisfactory completion of clinical coursework
  • Satisfactory participation in clinical seminars
  • Demonstration of safe clinical practice
  • Completing program of study requirements
  • Completing a final proposal
  • Completing a final report presentation and defending it

In addition to the items listed above, all doctoral students must complete their program within a certain time period and maintain a registration status of full-time or part-time when the degree is conferred. Ultimately, there are rules within rules, and the policies could even change during your tenure in your DNP program.

Even those who are normally able to comply with academic progress policies can experience external hardships that make academic work hard to focus on. Few things are more frustrating than feeling kicked when you're already down, but that's exactly what a poor performance review, or the requirement to appear before an academic review board, will feel like if you're already struggling with personal matters.

An experienced student discipline defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento understands that the last thing you need is the stress of defending yourself alone. Mr. Lento knows that students and their loved ones need guidance, compassion, and fierce representation to help them through any academic disciplinary process.

Doctor of Nursing Students Accused of Academic Misconduct

All too often, the issue of academic misconduct isn't as black or white as many would assume. Academic misconduct actually takes a variety of shapes and forms. Johns Hopkins’ Academic Integrity Policy, for example, prohibits broad activity including:

  • Cheating
  • Plagiarism
  • Forgery
  • Falsification
  • Lying
  • Facilitating academic dishonesty
  • Unfair competition
  • Failures to report alleged violations
  • Improper use of electronic devices
  • Failures to follow policies

Cheating is the most common incidence of academic misconduct, and while we understand cheating as dishonestly completing assignments or examinations through fraud or deceit, there are also times when a student is accused of cheating when they had no intention of doing so. This is particularly true in the age of Covid-19 and the push to remote learning in many classrooms.

Colleges and universities have experienced the frustrations of transitioning exams and assignments to digital platforms, and misunderstandings frequently result. Many schools rely on third-party proctors to monitor online exams, and students find that they're suffering from overzealous monitoring. Even when students aren't falsely accused of cheating in their exams, the added stress of the looming threat can affect their performance.

Plagiarism is another grey area when considering academic misconduct. Sometimes plagiarism is overt, and a student co-opts another's work for their own with the intent of taking shortcuts. Other times, though, a student will inadvertently plagiarize work. This may happen when a student borrows heavily without citation, even when the borrowing is subconscious rather than intentional. Even when a student plagiarizes with intent, the punishments can be grossly heavy-handed. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves second chances.

False Accusations of Academic Misconduct

Sometimes a student may find they've been falsely accused of academic misconduct. This could happen, for example, when a professor is overzealous and unreasonably critical in their view of a student's submitted assignment, or if peer is jealous or otherwise holds some grudge against you. It could happen just because a student wishes to protect their own record of academic integrity. After all, as outlined in the list above, Johns Hopkins' policies state that it is a violation to NOT report suspicion of another's misconduct.

Sometimes an instructor will also lodge a complaint of academic misconduct against a student for nefarious reasons. Racial or sexual discrimination could be at the root of the instructor's motivation, and if this occurs, you need to speak to an attorney right away as it's likely that this false accusation violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

Doctor of Nursing Students Accused of Professional Misconduct

Professional misconduct concerns the ethical expectations placed on DNP program participants. Deviation from the standard could get students into hot water. For example, the policy at the University of Pennsylvania DNP program states:

“Students may also be suspended or dismissed for (1) illegal or unethical professional conduct or (2) a pattern of unsafe or incompetent clinical practice.”

Nursing students are expected to go out into the world as competent representatives of the school they attended. If your DNP program administrators are notified that you've been conducting yourself in an unprofessional way, they're going to investigate the allegations. The presumption is that if you can't conduct yourself professionally in school, then you might not be able to do so after you graduate.

Professional misconduct can include:

  • Frequent tardiness
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Poor communication
  • Evidence of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Confidentiality violations

Sometimes professional misconduct can be attributed to simply having a bad day or week. It can happen to anyone, especially those who are already dealing with the pressures of a rigorous DNP program. Other times, professional misconduct can signal a more deeply rooted behavioral issue.

Regardless of the reasons a student finds themselves under the scrutiny of a disciplinary board for professional misconduct, their odds of overcoming the allegations grow when they hire a student discipline defense attorney who can help them understand the nature of their case and how they can fight back.

Doctor of Nursing Students Accused of Student Misconduct

Student misconduct is yet another category of potential pitfalls for nursing students moving through their DNP programs. Student misconduct involves behavioral issues that often cross beyond unprofessional conduct. It's common for DNP programs to defer to the broader university policies when student misconduct is involved.

At Duke University, for example, the following behaviors can trigger an investigation by the school's disciplinary board:

  • Unsafe or irresponsible alcohol consumption
  • Disruptive classroom behavior
  • Reckless, unreasonable, or disorderly conduct, including: “reckless driving; interrupting or interfering with the carrying out of the duties of a university or public official, including law enforcement; vomiting and/or urinating in public; and, indecent exposure.”
  • Drug use, possession, or possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Possessing or using guns, rifles, pistols, explosives, or other such weapons on campus

The list of conduct that can result in disciplinary action is expansive, and even seemingly harmless jokes can lead to life-changing consequences.

Title IX Issues and Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct is one of the most aggressively disciplined types of student misconduct. In most cases, this is because public schools, and most private schools, risk losing federal funding if they don't adequately investigate and remedy the issue of misconduct. Remedy most often means suspending or dismissing a student entirely.

Schools that receive federal funding, and almost all do, must abide by Title IX rules. Title IX is part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and requires that:

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Discrimination on the basis of sex will include but is not limited to:

  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Rape
  • Sex-based discrimination
  • Discrimination against LGBTQI+ students

In accordance with Title IX mandates, schools must develop their own system of reporting and remediating Title IX violations. Even when a school doesn't receive federal funding, it will likely still have policies that mirror Title IX conduct codes to protect itself from liability.

Anyone who suspects that sexual misconduct is happening is required to report such a violation. While the intention here is that sexual discrimination and misconduct will be curtailed earlier, mandatory reporting can also lead to false accusations. Mandatory reporters may not understand the context of your situation, and even when you've done nothing wrong, you can still find yourself in front of your school's disciplinary board defending against an allegation that could ruin your standing in your DNP program and future job opportunities.

Disciplinary Hearings and Remediation

DNP students facing disciplinary procedures for performance or misconduct issues should receive a formal notice of such. Once formal notice has been issued, a student may be investigated and then they will have the opportunity to defend themselves in a formal hearing.

For academic issues that aren't the result of alleged misconduct, an academic review board may vote on the best course of action for a student. If this is the student's first time before the board, then the student will often be given an opportunity to remediate. They could be required to retake clinicals or a course in the hopes that they achieve a passing grade before moving on to the next step in their education.

For misconduct issues, students who are required to appear before a disciplinary hearing should present evidence that may mitigate their behavior or otherwise demonstrate why they are innocent. Witnesses, digital communications, social media interactions, and anything else that may show they deserve to continue in your program should be presented as evidence.

Often, students will be asked to go through remediation. This may look like seeking professional help for behavioral issues, or it could look like retaking courses. While remediation is better than outright dismissal, it's still important you understand that remediation can miss the root of the issue and can lead to long-term consequences if not effectuated as best as possible. Hiring a legal advocate to fight for you is the best way to avoid these oversights.

Hire a Doctor of Nursing Student Defense Attorney

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has vast experience defending Doctor of Nursing students throughout the country, and he knows that when you're going through the disciplinary or administrative wringer at your school, you need an effective advocate who will fight for you. Attorney Lento also knows that you need to be in the loop, and he will always prioritize clear and concise communication with those he's defending. To learn how the Lento Law Firm can help you today, call 888-535-3686 today.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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