Cheating in Nursing School

Nursing is a hands-on position and if you can't do a procedure, then you can't do it, right?

Part of my daily routine is to search the Internet for job leads for my writing work. One of the places I go is Craigslist. I’d say that about 99% of the time there’s nothing of any value, but every once in a while, I hit a winner. Other times, I find posts like this: “need writer for nursing paper.”

The ad goes on to say, “I need someone to create a nursing research paper from literature searches that I have completed. I will forward these to the selected person. It is unclear how large the paper will be. I would not necessary need someone in nursing or the medical field if that person was well versed in APA formatting. The salary is open and I would need to discuss the specific requirements of the paper.”

This saddened me terribly. I know there are students who cheat and almost every week I see at least one posting from a student who wants their papers written for them or an “academic writing” company who wants to hire people. But it really shocked me to see this for a nursing paper. I know it shouldn’t, but it did.

That led me to thinking about other ways nursing students can cheat and I couldn’t think of any other options other than on exams. Nursing is a hands-on position and if you can’t do a procedure, then you can’t do it, right?

I remember the hours of practicing in the nursing lab how to do a sterile dressing, how to draw up an injection, basic skills that all nurses need to know. Those aren’t things you can fake. But, as nursing becomes more academic and as advanced degrees become more available, academic cheating isn’t far behind.

But also thinking back, I do remember some types of cheating that seemed harmless at the time. We had to do something called a communication process (or something like that). To do this, we had to write about a specific interaction with a patient and explain it. So, you described what you did, what you saw, your interpretation of what you saw, what your patient said, your interpretation of what the patient said, and what you said in return and why. This would all be wrapped out with an outcome. These logs had to include everything from body language (shrugged shoulders, pulling the blankets up, etc) to exact dialogue.

Who can recall an exact interaction with anyone after the fact? From facial expressions to tone of voice and your interpretation of them? I can almost guarantee that the vast majority of nursing students either made up the interactions or embellished them. I can recall several of us all sitting in the hallway writing out our spreadsheet. I know that I tried to be close to the situation, but there was no way I could detail all the aspects of the interaction. As well, how many students would actually write down a bad or ineffective interaction? Not many, I would think.

I guess the whole point of this week’s column is just a sadness about cheating in general. The importance for some students is in the grade, not in the learning process. Writing papers is hard — and the risk you take is a lower than desired mark. But the point of writing these nursing papers is to read that research and find ways to work with it, broadening your knowledge and, hopefully, making you a better nurse.