ShannonB25 raised a good point: NCLEX will prevent the cheaters from becoming nurses. However, that does not relieve the frustration you feel from studying hard to get good grades while others 'cheat' and achieve academic 'success.'
While working on my functional role asa nurse educator for my MSN, I had to do a great deal of teaching for 'clinical time.' Another nursing education student who also taught with me had a similar problem. I learned a lot about 'academic dishonesty' that semester. There are a few legalities to consider:
1. The burden of proof falls upon the shoulders of the prosecutor. That is, unless the professor saw the student do it, it is pretty much a 'my word against your word' type of scenario.
2. Without the professor him/herself catching the student in the act, if he/she approached the student about it [and, if you had the right sort of student], then the professor could easily find him/herself AND the college/university in the courtroom [if someone could sue for spilling coffee in their lap, imagine what sorts of things people will go to a lawyer over!!!].
I do not know if these reasons are WHY your instructor did not act. (S)he should have at the very least had a class 'commercial' in which they reviewed the academic honesty policy of the school.
Another though... if those of you who turned the students in from cheating were not listened to by the instructor, go over the instructors head to the office of the Dean or Provost or Vice-Provost of the university. THEY will not turn you away. It is one nice luxury that college based nursing programs
have over the hospital
diploma programs. Diploma programs had the director of the program as the FINAL authority. In the college setting, beyond the program director, you have the higher authorities, like the ones I have already mentioned.
Insofar as your teacher's speech about you and your fellow students being adults... It all goes back to something that the wisest and greatest Nursing Home Administrator in the world once told me... She said: "Tim... No good deed goes unpunished!"
Keep studying hard, and remember, it will all pay off. As far as your 'colleagues' just remember, their stupidity will carry it's own punishment.