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What should happen to a nurse who copied other nurses’ work, trying to pass it off as their own?

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This case study gives an example of a nurse charged with trying to deceive a university by copying a fellow advanced diploma student’s work and training certificates to submit them as their own

Nursing Times you are the panel logo

Nursing Times you are the panel logo

The charge

In 2016, while undertaking an advanced diploma course, Nurse A handed in an assignment that was copied from another student’s submitted work. Shortly afterwards, Nurse A also submitted supplementary evidence and certificates that were duplicated from another student’s submitted work. 

The charges relate to dishonesty: Nurse A intended to mislead the university into believing the assignment and/or Qualificatory Practice Unit (QPU) and supplementary file of evidence was their own work and that they had attended the courses relating to the training certificates. As such,  Nurse A’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct. 

The background

In September 2015, Nurse A enrolled on an advanced diploma course after being nominated by their employer. This was a distance-learning university course made up of two modules. 

The first module required students to submit three 500-word case studies and a 3,000-word assignment; for the second they had to submit a 3,500-word assessment and pass an objective structured clinical examination. In addition, students had to submit a QPU booklet – this includes army-based competencies in which students explain what they have done in a physical environment but are not required to give physical evidence. 

In August 2016, Nurse A submitted a 3,000-word assignment for the first module. It is alleged that when put through plagiarism software, it registered as a 98% copy of another student’s submitted assignment. 

Nearly two weeks later, Nurse A submitted their QPU booklet with a supplementary file of evidence, including training course certificates. This was allegedly a duplication of another student’s submission – one of the certificates still bore the name of the other student.   

At the hearing

With all facts proved by admission, the panel considered whether Nurse A’s fitness to practise was impaired. It heard evidence from Nurse A who, under oath, reiterated their remorse and accepted that their actions undermined the nursing profession’s reputation. They recognised the public could have been put at risk had the dishonesty not been discovered. 

When questioned, Nurse A accepted their actions were wrong but said, at the time, they did not appreciate their seriousness. Nurse A assured the panel they would not repeat the behaviours and said they did not wish to go through this terrifying process again. 

Witness A told the panel that Nurse A had, during the time in their employment, been open and honest about the allegations, went before a disciplinary panel and, at that point, did not deny the facts of the charges. Witness A said Nurse A received support from senior officers and there were no clinical concerns about Nurse A’s practice.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s case presenter invited the panel to take the view that Nurse A’s actions amounted to a breach of the Code and brought the profession into disrepute. In light of this, the presenter said Nurse A had breached a fundamental tenet of nursing. 

In terms of insight and remediation, the presenter said Nurse A had shown remorse and that they had developed insight. They said dishonesty was often difficult – but not impossible – to remediate and Nurse A’s actions were so serious that a finding of impairment was required to maintain public confidence in the profession and uphold professional standards.

Results of the fitness-to-practise panel

The ftp panel can impose four different sanctions: 

  • Not impaired: the panel finds that the registrants’s fitness to practise is not impaired; therefore they can continue to practise
  • Caution: the nurse or midwife is cautioned for their behaviour, but is allowed to practise without restriction

  • Conditions of practice: this will prevent a registrant from carrying out certain types of work or working in a particular setting, it may require them to attend occupational health or do retraining. The order can be applied for up to three years and must be reviewed by an FTP panel again before expiry
  • Suspension: the nurse or midwife will be suspended from practice for a period of initially not longer than one year, but this can be extended after review by an FTP panel

  • Striking off: a nurse or midwife is removed from the register and not allowed to practise in the UK. The nurse or midwife must apply to be readmitted to the register

Share what you believe is the right action for the NMC panel to take below and then find out what they decided: Final panel decision and reasons

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