Ensuring Academic Integrity Among Nursing Students

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nurses in classroom

For nearly 20 years, Gallup polls have found nursing to be the most trusted profession in the nation. When violations of academic integrity happen in nursing schools, the results can have wide-ranging repercussions on nursing educators, students and the profession.

In the journal BMC Medical Education, researchers said individuals who violate academic integrity might continue their unethical behaviors well into their professional careers. As the most senior nursing figures in a classroom, nurse educators are responsible for reigning in academic dishonesty to safeguard professional trust, researchers said in “Student and Faculty Perceptions: Appropriate Consequences of Lapses in Academic Integrity in Health Sciences Education.”

“Health sciences students are held to high ethical standards. However, prevalence of cheating and lapses in academic integrity among health sciences students correlate with that of other disciplines,” researchers said. “It is imperative academic integrity in health sciences education be maintained to ensure future health care professionals are adept at providing safe, quality care.”

Registered nurses (RNs) who are considering careers as nurse educators have an opportunity to make meaningful changes to increase academic integrity in nursing. By earning an MSN degree, including through an online master’s in nursing program, RNs can help students and other educators understand the importance of upholding a commitment to academic standards.

Academic Integrity in the Nursing Classroom

Studies show that nursing students, like students in other higher education programs, have cheated at some point during their academic career. In AllNurses.com, J. Adderton, MSN, gave examples of the statements that students make to justify their cheating behavior:

  • Everybody does it.
  • The faculty want us to fail.
  • I’m not sure if it’s cheating.
  • I won’t get kicked out, because I’m paying to be in this program.
  • The instructors have favorites, and I am not one of them.

Adderton, in an article titled “Lost Integrity: When Nursing Students Cheat,” said the most common form of academic dishonesty is student collusion. Academic collusion occurs when students work together on an assignment that was intended to be completed individually.

“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 another student’s work as your own diminishes academic honesty and is collusion,” Adderton said in the article.

Adderton also noted several other types of academic dishonesty:


Cheating is the use of notes, materials, study aids or other information not approved by an instructor.


Sabotage includes destroying another student’s work to prevent the student from completing it.

Fabrication or falsification

Fabrication (or falsification) is the use of manufactured sources to support research or claims.


Plagiarism happens when an individual uses another person’s ideas, words, data or assertions without giving the proper attribution.

Of the types of academic dishonesty, a study in the journal Heliyon, titled “Plagiarism in Nursing Education and the Ethical Implications in Practice,” found that nurse educators continually struggle with student plagiarism.

“The act of plagiarism has evolved into an important ethical issue in nursing, requiring nursing educators to consider the academic honesty of students who plagiarize. It is not only the act of plagiarism that interests nursing educators, but the possibility of future unethical actions from those who plagiarize intentionally or unintentionally,” authors of the study said.

Educators Supporting Academic Honesty

The Heliyon study said nursing students who get in the habit of plagiarism in their schoolwork may carry the practice forward into professional work. For example, a nursing student who plagiarizes clinical documentation in school may consider the practice acceptable and go on to use generic nursing notes during real-life practice.

“Instilling the importance of documenting each patient encounter as true and accurate is critical. Many of the same unintentional acts of plagiarism occurring in the classroom setting can be an issue for students in the clinical setting, involving documentation such as health assessments, health histories, care plans and concept maps,” study authors said.

In addition, higher-learning institutions nationwide have their own definitions and policies on academic dishonesty. For example, Duquesne University includes deceit in academia and misuse of documents among the academic integrity violations.

Academic Integrity at Work

Duquesne University defines academic integrity as “the pursuit of knowledge and understanding in an honest and forthright manner.”

“This is because intellectual endeavors – on site or online; in the library or the laboratory; in a classroom, a Living-Learning Center, or any off-campus learning environment – can only be conducted in an atmosphere of respect for the truth, commitment to the unfettered spirit of inquiry and acknowledgment of the different contributions and perspectives of others,” the university said in its policy.

As part of their profession, RNs live by a code of ethics and know how dishonest practice can destroy lives. In becoming a nurse educator, RNs learn about the importance of creating a productive learning environment. At Duquesne University, RNs who take an online master’s in nursing program follow an MSN curriculum that focuses on ethical practice and professional honesty.

About Duquesne University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing Education and Faculty Role

Duquesne University’s online Nursing Education and Faculty Role program prepares RNs to work as educators to assist the next generation of nurses. The coursework is presented online so nurses can continue their careers and personal lives while pursuing their educational goals.

The university also offers MSN degrees in other tracks:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive Nurse Leadership & Health Care Management

For more information, contact Duquesne University today.



Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, Ethics: Gallup

Student and faculty perceptions: appropriate consequences of lapses in academic integrity in health sciences education: BMC Medical Education

How have you been impacted by academic dishonesty?: AllNurses.com

Plagiarism in nursing education and the ethical implications in practice: Heliyon

Academic Integrity: Duquesne University Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures: Duquesne University