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Lost Integrity: When Nursing Students Cheat

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J.Adderton has 26 years experience as a BSN, MSN .

7 Followers; 79 Articles; 29,363 Profile Views; 321 Posts

Nursing students are held to a high moral and ethical standard. However, cheating continues to be a problem in nursing education. This article is the first part of a two-part series exploring academic dishonesty and the long and short term consequences.

Lost Integrity:  When Nursing Students Cheat

Academic integrity, or cheating, is any act or behavior that gives a student an unfair advantage for the sake of improving academic performance. Cheating is not new in colleges and continues to be a problem in nursing programs. Previous surveys of enrolled nursing students report between 75% to 90% have engaged in dishonest acts at some point in their nursing program.  The International Center for Integrity and McCabe surveyed 71,300 undergraduate nursing students between 2002-2015, excluding first year and two-year programs. The survey results are eye-opening with 39% admitting to cheating on tests, 62% admitting to cheating on written assignments, and 68% admitting to both cheating on both tests and written assignments.  McCabe (2009) found the individual level of cheating in nursing programs is lower than other disciplines, but collaborative cheating is significantly higher.

It’s Not Cheating, It is Justified

Research has shown a correlation between the rationalization or deflecting blame and academic dishonesty.  Examples of students justifying their cheating behavior include:

  • Everybody does it.
  • No one understands references and APA citations.
  • It is not stated in the syllabus.
  • The faculty want us to fail.
  • Not sure if it is cheating or not.
  • I won’t be kicked out- I am paying to be in this program.
  • The instructors have favorites and I am not one of them.

Because of the stress and time in nursing programs, forming close bonds and loyalty to one or a group of students is common. Cheating may also be justified by “helping the group” through sharing what was on an exam to other students who have not taken.  Students may also share answers to assignments to a group because “no one understood this assignment”.

Student Collusion

The most common form of cheating among nursing students is plagiarism and collusion.  Academic collusion is when more than one person contributes to a work (exam, paper, assignment, clinical paperwork etc) that is submitted as the work for one person.  Group work, assigned with the intention of multiple contributors is different from assignments faculty intend to be completed individually. Examples of collusion include:

  • Three students in a clinical group are assigned to write a care plan for the patient they were assigned.  Three friends in the group decided to pick the same nursing diagnosis so they could “collaborate” on the care plan.
  • Students were assigned an essay describing 5 nursing theories.  The essay assigned is 8 pages and 5 students decide to each take a theory and share research with the others.
  • A case study is assigned for 5% of the overall grade.  One student completed the assignment and shared with other students to give them a “point of reference”.

Discussing lecture and class content with other students is usually encouraged and beneficial. However, sharing your work with another student as part of their assignment or using the work of another student as your own crosses diminishes academic honesty and is collusion.

Forms of Academic Dishonesty

Students commonly engage in these four types of academic dishonesty:

  1. Cheating- unauthorized use of information in completing academic activities (crib notes, texting someone outside of an exam for answers, signaling or whispering during a test).
  2. Plagiarism (intentional and unintentional)- taking another person's words or ideas and passing it off as your own (cut and pasting of material, failure to cite a source, poor quoting).
  3. Fabrication or falsification- unauthorized creating, altering or reporting information in an academic activity (fabricating sources and references, the omission of information, using someone else's login ID and password).
  4. Sabotage- disrupting or destroying another person’s work so the other person cannot successfully complete an academic activity (not contributing to a group assignment, stealing another’s property i.e. computer, textbook).

It is important to understand the different types of academic dishonesty. Even if a student unintentionally engages in a form of cheating, they are still guilty and may face the same consequences as if their actions were intentional.  It is also important to be familiar with the college’s and/or program’s specific policies addressing academic dishonesty.

The second part of this series will discuss why students risk the potential sanctions and penalties to engage in academic dishonesty.  We will also explore the potential moral, ethical and academic consequences of cheating.

How have you been impacted by academic dishonesty?

References and Resources:

ACPA College Student Education International, The cheating epidemic: Reducing academically dishonest behaviors amongst college students (2015)

Edmunds, M. & Scudder, L.  (2009). Academic dishonesty:  what does cheating say about our future nurses article review. Medscape article review and commentary

Wideman, M. (2011).  Caring or collusion? Academic dishonesty in a school of nursing. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 41(2), 28-43

Northern Illinois University Tutorial- Academic Integrity

I am a nurse with over 20 years nursing experience. I have had the privilege of working in numerous areas of nursing, including, leadership and nursing education. I enjoy writing articles with a student focus and on topics I encounter in my own practice. I also enjoy learning and gaining new insight from responses and comments to my articles.

7 Followers; 79 Articles; 29,363 Profile Views; 321 Posts

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ruby_jane has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in ICU/community health/school nursing.

3 Followers; 2,418 Posts; 8,930 Profile Views

Wow...are we equating "collusion" (five people working on one part of a paper each) with plagarism, falsification, and sabotage??? Hmm.

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ShadowNurse has 3 years experience and specializes in Pediatrics.

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That was one of the perks of being not a particularly popular nursing student for me--no temptation to collaboratively cheat. I had one friend to ask about due dates and clarify questions, and that was it. Group cheating among the other cliques was, however, rampant.

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Snatchedwig has 11 years experience as a ADN, CNA, LPN, RN and specializes in Medsurg.

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I never had a group care plan before. Thats a first...anyone else?

If people cheat, thats their business and none of mine.

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Edited by Snatchedwig

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117 Posts; 1,514 Profile Views

I remember taking A&P and we were sent to a room down the hall without supervision to look at slides under a microscope to identify. Several people were talking and changing answer, which of course wasn't allowed. It made me mad bc I spent many hours preparing for the test and then answers were just being given out. Plus I was upset that the teacher had set things up so it would be easy to cheat. I did speak with the teacher about it but didn't id the students. I wanted her to know that unfortunately we couldn't all abide by the honor system.

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ShadowNurse has 3 years experience and specializes in Pediatrics.

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2 hours ago, Snatchedwig said:

I never had a group care plan before. Thats a first...anyone else?

Instagram-56e0ee.png

The closest we ever came in my program was my clinical instructor allowing us to complete our drug cards collaboratively, dividing the assignment into 4 equal parts on a Google+ document and setting a due date for it all to be done. It really was a, "Work smarter, not harder" approach, and I really liked it. 

Then again, I loved nursing school because it was so heavily test-based. I felt like I was actually being graded on my knowledge, not how many fussy assignments I could keep track of.

Edited by ShadowNurse

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368 Posts; 6,733 Profile Views

not nursing, but med school.  One of my daughters described a situation in her first year, where the most prized student was kicked out of the program for cheating.  She actually ripped my daughter's notes out of her hand to make copies.  The student (Male) who reported her for cheating on tests was bullied for a while and then it faded away eventually.

The cheater had received a total ride and lot's more for med school.  Sad, those awards could have gone to a more deserving student.

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9 Followers; 3,344 Posts; 24,468 Profile Views

Although every adult is responsible for their own ethical behavior, one of the issues that must be addressed right alongside student cheating is that which amounts to cheating at teaching, if you ask me:

Students don't get on the financial hook for tens of thousands of dollars in order to look at a publisher's absolutely useless powerpoint and possibly hear a little bit of commentary from someone with a PhD but very little (if any) expertise in the specific subject matter, only to be tested with questions from a publisher's test bank. [I've heard the rationales for that latter trend and I reject them mostly.]

 

 

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kakamegamama specializes in MCH,NICU,NNsy,Educ,Village Nursing.

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3 hours ago, JKL33 said:

Although every adult is responsible for their own ethical behavior, one of the issues that must be addressed right alongside student cheating is that which amounts to cheating at teaching, if you ask me:

Students don't get on the financial hook for tens of thousands of dollars in order to look at a publisher's absolutely useless powerpoint and possibly hear a little bit of commentary from someone with a PhD but very little (if any) expertise in the specific subject matter, only to be tested with questions from a publisher's test bank. [I've heard the rationales for that latter trend and I reject them mostly.]

 

 

What do you suggest?

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9 Followers; 3,344 Posts; 24,468 Profile Views

What do you mean what do I suggest? Untold numbers of students learned things and passed NCLEX before publisher-provided powerpoints and test banks.

Do you think the price of an education makes the purchase of this type of teaching a good value?

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48 Posts; 607 Profile Views

Sadly professors are held to a different standard. I had a professor who decided that the test bank answers weren't correct so it was her own answers that she went with. Needless to say only 3 out of 60 people passed the final and the highest grade was an 80. The punishment for the professor was that she was forced to take a sabbatical and now she's teaching again.

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barcode120x has 3 years experience as a ADN, BSN, RN and specializes in Telemetry.

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Interesting post. Had a small reunion with a couple former nursing friends a few years after we graduated and the story of cheating came up. One friend was like, "so who cheated in nursing school?" And everyone in the reunion except for myself and 1 other didn't. I was quite surprised. Cheating and thought of classmates cheating during nursing school never crossed my mind but at this reunion, I was quite surprised how a majority did.

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