The dangers of any student in any discipline sharing completed work with their fellow students is fraught with some very real dangers. Depending on the formal code of conduct of the institution as it relates to cheating, the possible consequences of sharing work could even reach the stage of expulsion. Unfortunately, too many students labor under the impression that the sharing of completed assignments only qualifies as cheating to the beneficiary of the transaction. The truth is the general definition of cheating in those codes typically covers “any activity whose purpose is to gain a higher score on a test or other academic assignment than a student is likely to earn on the basis of achievement. Cheating on a test can take the form of acquiring test materials in advance of the test or sharing these materials with others, arranging for a substitute to take a test, preparing and using unauthorized notes during the test, exchanging information with others (Oermann & Gaberson, 2006, p. 166).
While certainly worthy of consideration and hardly a circumstance to underestimate, when it comes to nursing education, such penalties are merely the tip of what could prove a far larger and more dangerous iceberg. Not to denigrate the value of any other educational discipline, but the undeniable fact is there isn’t much potential for another person to become seriously ill or even die because one student who has confused Sense and Sensibility with Pride and Prejudice thinks he’s doing another student a favor by sharing that analysis. On the other hand, nursing students are routinely given assignments where the information being learned could potentially become lethal in the hands of someone who is given the wrong answer or even just a mistaken answer. For that matter, a slight spelling or numerical error shared with another student could one day prove to be an incredibly important bit of misinformation to stick inside one’s mind.

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The most pressing issue related to such a scenario is that the potential for very real and even extreme danger to result from one student even accidentally sharing misinformation has grown exponentially and has actually even become more likely as a result of the ways that “wireless messaging devices, sophisticated cell phones, I-Pods and the internet make cheating easier than ever. Students can text each other answers to an examination with relative ease using cell phones. Photographed copies of entire examinations can be picture messaged via IPods and cell phones” (Arhin, 2009). Giving a friend who has been forced to miss several classes a copy of your notes in handwritten scribble he fails to properly translate is one thing, sharing those notes with dozens, hundreds and possibly even thousands of students you’ve never even met on some social media sharing site is an epidemic of disastrous medical care just waiting to happen.

Admittedly, safeguards are in place to prevent the consequences of nursing students who share incorrect information with other students from reaching such levels, but the health care is already under enough strain with badly education graduates making things worse. The unspoken contract between higher education and the business world is that the business world expects to “hire graduates with the understanding that the college degree is backed by a considerable knowledge base and certain writing, critical thinking, and analytic skills” (McHugh, 2006, p. 29). A student who is systemic abuser of the willingness for a better student to share their work is going to violate that agreement by graduating with all the necessary skills to provide the kind of care that any patient should rightfully expect. Lost amid the employment of such an undereducated health care provider will be the culpability of any student who contributed to this tragic circumstance as a result of not fully recognizing the consequences of their own actions, no matter how much they may believe they were just helping someone out in a time of need and did absolutely nothing terribly wrong.

    References
  • Arhin, A. O. (2009). A Pilot Study of Nursing Student’s Perceptions of Academic Dishonesty: A Generation Y Perspective. ABNF Journal, 20(1), 17.
  • McHugh, M. L. (2006). Chapter 2- Teaching a Web-Based Course: Lessons from the Front. In J. M. Novotny & R. H. Davis (Eds.), Distance Education in Nursing (2nd ed., pp. 15-46). New York: Springer Publishing Company.
  • Oermann, M. H., & Gaberson, K. B. (2006). Evaluation and Testing in Nursing Education (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Company.