What To Do if You’re Accused of Nursing Academic Misconduct

Understanding Disciplinary Procedures for Cheating, Plagiarism and More

When a nursing student has been accused of academic misconduct, it can affect their future ability to get into a graduate school or other specialized program, obtain a professional nursing license, or get a nursing job.

A quick look at a few of the nurse and nursing student discussion boards reveals some of the concerns people are worried about, including these discussions on allnurses.com:

  • A student who was expelled from a BSN program for academic misconduct is worried they'll have to submit transcripts from the failed program when they apply to other nursing programs.
  • A prospective nursing student wonders whether disciplinary action for plagiarism in college will prevent her from getting into nursing school.
  • Another says they got caught cheating on a test during their nursing pre-requisites in community college. Now that they're applying to four-year universities and colleges, they're worried that having an academic dishonesty record on their transcript is “kind of a deal-breaker.”

Nursing Expectations Are Higher

The expectations that you face in nursing school may be higher than you think. Nursing programs are not high school, where a good part of the program has to do with socialization and maturation. Nursing programs are instead professional programs. They demand that their students meet professional standards. Nursing programs also expect that you display good fitness and sound character. Nursing programs aren't in the business of coddling students while they mature. Nursing students need to display honesty, respect for the rules, and respect for professional customs and conventions. Academic misconduct like cheating, plagiarism, and misrepresentations can indicate that the student is not fit and ready for nursing practice without creating unacceptable safety and health risks. Nursing practice is the real world. Nursing schools need to replicate real-world experiences where actions have consequences. Nursing students need to avoid academic misconduct at all costs.

The Consequences of Misconduct Are Bigger

You may also have more at risk than you think when facing nursing academic misconduct charges. The punishment for academic misconduct is not simply a question of a slap on the wrist. Nursing schools have a role not just in shaping sound behavior but also in winnowing out candidates who don't demonstrate the required fitness and character. The nursing student who commits academic misconduct faces a significant risk of suspension or expulsion from the nursing program. You may not get a second chance.

It's also a fact that nursing academic misconduct can render you ineligible for admission to another nursing program. This is addressed in the admission requirements for many nursing programs, including the program at Georgia Southwestern State University.They state that applicants “must not have been excluded from another nursing program for any reason, including (but not limited to) academic misconduct, disruptive behavior, or program failure.” (RN-BSN Program Eligibility Requirements)

The Consequences of Academic Misconduct Can Be Long Term

If your nursing program finds that you committed academic misconduct, you may suffer consequences long after the immediate issue has been resolved. An academic misconduct finding can continue to impact your career, reputation, and life long after you receive a reprimand or serve a suspension. Repeating courses, serving a suspension, or doing extra education and training can certainly slow your academic progress.

For example, in 2018, the West Virginia Record reported that a nursing student at West Virginia University had filed a complaint against the school, alleging, among other things, that the school had denied her right to due process. A professor accused her of academic misconduct after another student said she had cheated on a test, and the professor thought she “looked nervous during the exam.The student received a zero on the exam and had to retake the class, slowing down her academic progress.

But the delay and the attendant extra tuition and housing costs may not be the most serious impacts to an academic misconduct finding. You can lose opportunities for references, recommendation letters, special clinics and internships, and jobs. Academic misconduct findings can close doors to things like scholarships, honors, and awards, and the professional opportunities, reputation, and prestige that go along with them. They say that the student who starts strong finishes strong. The opposite can also be true that the student who suffers academic misconduct findings can lag not just through school but into and through a career. You have a lot on the line when facing nursing academic misconduct charges.

Questions from Nursing Students Accused of Academic Misconduct

Receiving a notice from your nursing program that it suspects you of academic misconduct is an unnerving event. If you've received a letter from your professor or the dean of your nursing school saying you've been accused of academic misconduct, you probably have a lot of questions. Indeed, you should have questions. The worst thing you can do when receiving notice of academic misconduct charges is to ignore the charges, hoping they'll go away. You should instead be thinking about what you need to learn to successfully contest the charges. Helpful questions can include:

  • What is academic misconduct?
  • Who defines academic misconduct?
  • Who is accusing me?
  • Why do nursing schools take academic misconduct so seriously?
  • What should I do?
  • What if I didn't do anything wrong?
  • What is the school going to do?
  • Who oversees the disciplinary process?
  • Will I get kicked out of school for academic misconduct?
  • Will this stay on my permanent academic record?
  • Will it affect my chances of getting a nursing job after I graduate?

Why Information Is Important

To navigate nursing academic misconduct charges successfully, you need answers to those questions. Your knowledge will give you a sound base from which to make wise and strategic decisions about how to handle the charges. You have a role. Don't think that you are helpless in the face of academic misconduct accusations. Your most significant strategic decision in overcoming the charges will be to get informed so that you can get the right help to take the right action.

Missteps are easy when navigating an academic administrative process. You can face hard deadlines, like answering a charge, that you must meet at risk of defaulting into sanctions. You can also face soft deadlines, like providing witness names and information, the unanticipated passing of which will put you at significant procedural disadvantages. In short, you need to know the rules, definitions, conventions, and procedures so that you can make the right showing in the right forum at the right time. When facing nursing academic misconduct charges, knowledge is power. Get the power.

Talk to an Experienced Students' Rights Attorney

An experienced students' rights attorney will be able to a