Everybody knows the infamous saying, “Cheaters never prosper” that has been drilled into our heads from a very young age. The importance of academic integrity has never been more prevalent than now. Academic integrity means believing in the principles set for you, and making sure your behavior is consistent with them. Nursing has been regarded as one of the most trustworthy and ethical professions to date, However instances of academic dishonesty have been steadily increasing among college students nationwide in recent years. How can we be sure nursing students are upholding moral standards?
Academic dishonesty has become a growing phenomenon among nursing students across the country. In the article, “Perceptions of Academic Integrity Among Nursing Students” by Wendy Woith, Sheryl Duan Jenkins and Cindy Kerber, reported that 58%-94% of nursing students have reported engaging in academic dishonesty (Woith, W.,Jenkins, S., and Kerber, C. ; 253). What could be the cause of this? Reasons for this growth could be boiled down to three main factors; student, faculty and system. According to the same article, “The increasing availability of technology, especially the abundance of handheld communication devices, makes cheating easier” (Woith, W.,Jenkins, S., and Kerber, C. ; 254). Example of cheating could include, googling the answers, cutting and pasting, or misrepresenting someone’s work as your own. Faculty factors are said to include the demand by nursing educators for excellent student performance. It is said that, “…Nursing science is becoming increasingly complex, and faculty expect students to master more content within a four year program” (Woith, W.,Jenkins, S., and Kerber, C. ; 254). When talking about system factors, the article goes on to say that students pinpointed that inadequate time to study became a key reason for them to engage in academic dishonesty (Woith, W.,Jenkins, S., and Kerber, C. ; 256). In order to find out just how many nursing students partake in forms of academic dishonesty, a study was conducted. By conducting a study at a midwestern public university, researchers found that twenty seven percent of participants were not satisfied with their peer’s academic integrity.
Prior to reading the article, “Perceptions of Academic Integrity Among Nursing Students” by Wendy Woith, Sheryl Duan Jenkins and Cindy Kerber, I had no idea the lack of academic integrity in nursing school was such an epidemic. In a profession as highly respected as nursing, I think it is imperative to maintain your commitment to the values and principles of nursing. Although honesty is important in all careers, it is especially crucial nurses. Nurses are notorious for being honest and trustworthy due to the fact they are frequently required to handle sensitive materials, and to deal with patients in difficult situations. It is important that in a difficult profession like this that you can trust the people around you to assist you. If you cheated your entire way through nursing school, that means you never really learned anything, therefore how can I trust you to take proper care of a patient? Academic integrity not only shows your professionalism and dedication to the field of nursing, but highlights your overall character.
People cheat for a variety of reasons, the most common motivation being personal gain. In nursing school it seems like the most common reason is to remain at the top of the class. I know that the article, “Perceptions of Academic Integrity Among Nursing Students” by Wendy Woith, Sheryl Duan Jenkins and Cindy Kerber, briefly touched on this subject. The competition for grades seems to be a prime motivator among students who cheat. The concentration on subject matter turns more to the actual grade than the material (Woith, W.,Jenkins, S., and Kerber, C. ; 256). Cheating is not only immoral, it is also a sign of disrespect. Cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty, degrate classmates who are working hard and honestly to maintain good grades. This also becomes a matter of respect, Not only is cheating disrespecting fellow classmates, the cheater borders on disrespecting the profession as a whole. As mentioned earlier, Nurses are regarded as one of the most trustworthy professions, year after year.
The importance of academic integrity in Nursing extends far beyond test grades and homework assignments. Academic integrity is pivotal to the success of a nursing student. Nursing is a profession in which your knowledge is your key to success. If you cheated your entire way through school, you get into the profession knowing next to nothing. When in the field, this is no longer a matter of personal responsibility, it’s a matter of life and death. This is why it is imperative to hold nursing students to a higher standard when it comes to academic integrity. Although some may not see the link between a plagiarized paper or two and being able to take proper care of patients, it’s the principal. The public expects honesty, trustworthy, knowledgeable, nurses in charge of their care. If you betray that trust, the consequences could be dire. If you can not be honorable in your work as a student, how can you be honorable in your work in the field?
Any and all forms of academic dishonesty should be taken as seriously as possible. The overall strategy for dealing with academic dishonesty varies from institution to institution. My belief is that the students involved should be confronted with the issue promptly after it’s been discovered. In a meeting with a professor or academic counselor, they should be given a chance to give their side of the story, or defend their work in any way. Then the professor can move forward based on the evidence and the student’s testimony. Based upon the severity of the infraction, The student could receive penalties varying from academic probation, removal from the nursing program, or outright expulsion from school. Academic dishonesty is an alarming trend among college students across the United States, and is not something to be taken lightly.
After engaging in further research, It became clear that academic dishonesty in nursing is not only an epidemic in the United States but worldwide. Prior to 2012, there was limited research on academic dishonesty in nursing education facilities in South Africa. “In South Africa to date no studies have explored academic dishonesty amongst nursing students. However, on the basis of international studies and the researcher’s personal experience, a justifiable inference was made that the practice of academic dishonesty could prevail at nursing education institutions in South Africa” (Theart, C.J. & Smith, I.;2). The study’s ultimate goal was to provide further insight into the issues of academic integrity in undergraduate nursing students. “The study population included all pre-registration nursing students in the second, third, and fourth year groups at a specific nursing education institution in the Western Cape” (Theart, C.J. & Smith, I.;2). 550 students were surveyed, from various ethnic backgrounds, being of various ages and genders. The results of the study were shocking. 88% of 550 students surveyed admitted engaging in acts deemed cheating at least once. Only 12% of those surveyed reported never being involved in cheating (Theart, C.J. & Smith, I.;4) Within this study, it also goes on the explain contextual factors that may help explain such high academic dishonesty rates. The study cites pressure to succeed academically was the primary motivator in influencing cheating. An 84% of those surveyed admitted to that being their main reasoning to justify cheating and 71% indicated that academic insecurity amongst peers would cause them to engage in cheating (Theart, C.J. & Smith, I.;5). If the lack of academic integrity is such a grossly common issue with nursing students, Why is more attention not brought to it?
It was amidst further research that this question was answered. Although academic dishonesty is such a prevalent issue with nursing students, very few incidents are ever reported. In an article entitled, “Nursing Faculty Experiences of Students’ Academic Dishonesty”, author Joyce S. Fontana focuses on explaining the lack of research on the impact of confronting academically dishonest students on nursing educators. A study was conducted with 12 nursing educators working in baccalaureate nursing programs, to find just how educators feel about addressing academic dishonesty. In the article it states that, “Addressing academic dishonesty was identified as an enormous burden to nurse educators who became aware of this student behavior. The process of confronting and reporting students involved significant risk, damaged relationships and underscored nurse educators’ responsibility as gatekeepers of the nursing profession” (Fontana, J.;182). Throughout the study it is a reoccuring theme that the reason incidents of academic dishonesty are not being reported is that faculty are worried about personal repercussions. Participants in the study cited fearing the creation of legal problems, retribution from students, negative evaluations, verbal and or physical abuse in exchange for reporting instances of cheating (Fontana, J.;183). Throughout the research I’ve conducted, it has become clear to me that anybody who would engage in academic dishonesty should simply consider another career.
Ultimately, I believe that the importance of academic integrity in Nursing extends far beyond test grades and homework assignments. Academic dishonesty has become a growing phenomenon among nursing students across the country and has arguably entered crisis territory. I think it is imperative to maintain your commitment to the values and principles of nursing. As nurses, we have certain responsibility to uphold to maintain patient safety and provide proper care. By doing further research, my previous statement still stands, Honesty is especially crucial to nurses. Any and all forms of academic dishonesty should be taken as seriously as possible and students should be punished accordingly. The importance of academic integrity in nursing comes down to one simple principle, life and death.