Dismissed nursing student wants to know her rights

By | 2018-11-12T19:55:38-05:00 November 12th, 2018|27 Comments

A nursing student submitted a question about what her rights are after being dismissed from her nursing education program four months before graduation.

The student did not include why she was being dismissed from the program, so my response cannot address that, but I provide a general response about the student’s rights.

Generally, if you’re a nursing student your rights in a dismissal proceeding depends on, first and foremost, if you are in a public post-secondary nursing education program or in a private nursing education program.

Public education program rights

If you are in a public college or university, your rights are dictated by the U.S. Constitution and case law interpreting your rights under the Constitution. Because you don’t leave the Constitution’s protections at the entryway of your academic campus, your rights follow you throughout the program.

Insofar as dismissal from a program is concerned, the nursing program’s student handbook spells out your rights vis-à-vis the Constitution. They include:

  1. Notice of the reason for the dismissal.

  2. The right to a hearing before the dismissal occurs.

  3. Notice of the time and place of the dismissal hearing.

  4. The right to present witnesses in your favor.

  5. The right to a written decision by the academic program.

  6. In most instances, the right to legal representation at the hearing.

These rights are called due process rights. Because the law sees graduating from an educational program as a “property right” (ending in licensure), certain protections must be provided to the student to ensure a dismissal is not “arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory.”

You might wonder what the terms “arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory” mean.

An example of an arbitrary decision would be if it were illogical, subjective or made by chance. If you were dismissed without a solid, objective or valid reason, and you could prove this, the dismissal would not be upheld by a court.

A capricious decision of dismissal is one that is not predicted, is impulsive and is erratic. A nursing education program that makes fanciful decisions about who remains in the program and does not follow past decisions and its handbook would not be able to defend such a dismissal.

Discriminatory dismissal decisions are ones in which you are treated differently and not in accordance with the student handbook. If you are a male student and more demands are placed on you in your clinical and classroom requirements than female fellow students and you cannot meet these requirements and are dismissed, this can be seen by the courts as a discriminatory dismissal.

In addition, because a dismissal may prevent you from entering another nursing education program and meet your ultimate goal of graduation and licensure, the proceedings governing the dismissal must pass constitutional protections so that your  “liberty interest” in doing so are not violated.

Private education program rights

If, in contrast, you are a student in a private nursing education program, your rights consist of what the academic institution provides you with. As a result, student rights in private programs vary considerably and are spelled out in the student handbook.

Whatever protections surrounding dismissal from the program are granted by the institution must be adhered to. The student handbook becomes the touchstone of how the nursing program handles a dismissal.

If the dismissal is not consistent with the student handbook and past dismissal decisions, it can be seen as arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory. As a result, it would not be upheld if you were to challenge the dismissal in court.

The protections accorded by both a public and private post-secondary nursing program apply to you as a student in all nursing education programs at whatever level.

Take advantage of resources

The student who submitted the question asked where she could obtain more information about her rights when dismissed from a program.

The first resource for anyone in this situation would be a nurse attorney or attorney who concentrates his or her practice in education law and who represents students.

Obtaining a consultation as quickly as possible will help determine how to proceed in challenging the dismissal and obtaining legal representation in the dismissal proceedings.

Because the student who submitted her question is in an initial nursing education program, she also could use her membership in the National Student Nurses Association.

Along with its many benefits, the association advocates for the rights of nursing students and has several publications that may be helpful, including the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities of Students of Nursing.

Nursing education programs have an obligation to ensure students enrolled in their programs fulfill all requirements of the program, including grade point averages, clinical competencies and adherence to its established student code of conduct.

The programs also have an obligation to adhere to the protections afforded students and to be fair, reasoned and principled when considering a dismissal of a student in its program.

For more information about your rights as a college or university student at any educational level (e.g., BS, MS, PhD), read “What College Students Should Know About Their Rights On Campus.”

Courses related to nurses’ rights and responsibilities:

The Nurses’ Bill of Rights
(1 contact hr)

The American Nurses Association (ANA) held a nursing staffing summit in Washington, D.C., in 2000. In a survey preceding the summit, 75% of nurses reported the quality of nursing care at their facilities had declined because of inadequate staffing and decreased nurse satisfaction. More than 200 summit attendees determined the need for a document to detail what nurses need and deserve to do the best for their patients. This need served as the impetus for the Nurses’ Bill of Rights, which was approved by the ANA board of directors in 2001. The Nurses’ Bill of Rights is a statement of professional rights rather than a legal document. It establishes an informal covenant between nurses and their employing institutions to help guide organizational policy and to focus discussions between nurses and employers on issues related to patient care and working conditions. Nurses can advocate more effectively for patients’ rights when they have critical information about their own rights. Not every nurse is familiar with the Nurses’ Bill of Rights or related rights described by various state boards of nursing and nursing associations in their position statements. This module provides an overview of them.

Everyday Ethics for Nurses
(7.3 contact hrs)

This course provides an overview of bioethics as it applies to healthcare and nursing in the U.S. It begins by describing the historical events and forces that brought the bioethics movement into being and explains the concepts, theories and principles that are its underpinnings. It shows how ethics functions within nursing, as well as on a hospitalwide, interdisciplinary ethics committee. The course also explains the elements of ethical decision making as they apply to the care of patients and on ethics committees. The course concludes with a look at the ethical challenges involved in physician-assisted suicide, organ transplantation and genetic testing.

Legal Landscape of Electronic Prior Authorization (ePA) and Its Effect on Patients and Prescribers
(1 contact hr)

The goal of this presentation is to discuss ePA mandates, points of access to ePA, the role of plans, and the effect of ePA solutions on patient care and outcomes. Upon completion of the webinar, participants will be able to explain the electronic prescription drug prior authorization process and recall named standards, identify states that have legislation surrounding electronic submission of PA requests, describe requirements of various PA legislation, identify access points to ePA solutions and the effect of ePA legislation on prior authorization process, discuss the current state of ePA availability and adoption re: different factors, and explain prior authorization workflow to patients/caregivers.


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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.


  1. Avatar
    Lonnie November 17, 2018 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    I too was dismissed from a university accelerated nursing program, 7th semester, due to not passing med surg II twice. I had only 1 semester remaining! The school raised the passing grade from 73 to 75 in the middle of the program. I would had passed the second time. I appealed, but I was denied reentry. I was thinking about transferring to another school. Does this sound like something that is possible?

  2. Avatar
    Lonnie November 17, 2018 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    I was denied reentry into the nursing program that I was dismissed from due to getting C- twice. The reason for the denial was not included in the letter. How can I find out the reason I was denied? I was a 7th semester nursing student with one semester left.

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    Melanie November 20, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

    I was dismissed 2 months before graduation by a clinical instructor known for failing people she didn’t like. I answered a question about insulin incorrectly and she deemed me unsafe. I was a B student, never failed anything and was my class representative. I was denied reentry twice. I was told I could not have a hearing. It was the worst experience of my life. That was 2 years ago. I am now finishing my RN at another community college and having a wonderful experience. I do wonder though if there is anything I can do for compensation at this point. Any advice is appreciated.

    • Avatar
      Christina February 14, 2019 at 4:40 am - Reply

      I was dismissed with 1.5 years left. I took a picture of my mid semester evaluation in front of my clinical instructor and he said this constituted academic dishonesty. The handbook says academic dishonesty is cheating or plagiarizing, etc. that night, he tells me he wont tell school leadership. then, a week later, he sends a group text saying it’s okay to have copies of it. then, 4 weeks later, i get doubled teamed by my med surg lecture and rotation instructor and he tells me in front of her he is failing me for the picture. he betrayed me and contradicted himself. any advice would be appreciated.

  4. Avatar
    Taby December 7, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Did anyone of you find a forgram that accepting transfer as junior or senior. Nursing dismissed in senior is seriously case.

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    Rachael Marie Dodson March 21, 2019 at 2:38 am - Reply

    I was also dismissed from a Private school 2 classes before receiving my BSN. I never failed a nursing course and was a B student. Being a Catholic University, I was required to take Catholic Bioethics in which the same professor gave me a C- twice!…The only C- that I ever received. This brought my overall GPA just below the minimum and I was dismissed from the nursing program. I was told that I would have to reapply and start from the beginning. This made no sense to me, as I had never failed a nursing course and completed all of my clinicals. I followed through with an appeal and appeared before the board, which felt like more wasted time and energy. As a single mother who has worked full time throughout my 2 years of nursing school, I cannot imagine putting myself through that amount of stress again. Although my passion is to become a nurse, this entire experience has put a very bad taste in my mouth for nursing. Had I known what I know now, I would have never chose a Private school…a Catholic one at That!

    • Avatar
      Lina May 16, 2019 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      Hello Rachael,
      I just had your same experience. I had only 2 classes left to finish the nursing program at a catholic university. I was wondering if in the end you where able to accomplish something. Where you able to appeal? if so what was the outcome. This is really frustrating I don’t know what to do do now. Thank you

    • Avatar
      Perez October 26, 2019 at 12:19 am - Reply

      Hello Lina.

      I’m in the same situation, I was dismissed one class before finished, have you found any solution to problem?

  6. Avatar
    Taylor April 11, 2019 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Do you have any examples of appeals? Or possibly any tips on the information that should be included.

  7. Avatar
    Lynn May 29, 2019 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    Do anyone have suggestions about schools that will give a second chance?

  8. Avatar
    SK June 26, 2019 at 12:30 am - Reply

    Kind of curious, if you were dismissed 3 years ago from a public university BSN Program for a C+, and the school readjusted your grade later, and your now eligible to go back to the school but you don’t want to, do you have to tell other schools your were dismissed? Even though the GPA on the transcript has been revised?

    Is there a “so-called”, time line that you have to report to other schools you were dismissed? I’m asking because it seems like a unfair stigma that is now stamped on you.

    Any suggestions?

  9. Avatar
    Carolyn A Elrod July 30, 2019 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    Seems to me that felons released from prison have a better shot at getting a second chance that a nursing student dismissed from a program for one lower than expected grade. No one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, which is that these schools dismiss students to protect their nclex passing percentages. The better process would be to identify these students and help them excel, rather than stamp them with a career killing dismissal. Whatever happened to being put on probation for a semester!! I know plenty of people in this situation who would make wonderful nurses, they just had some personal events that caused them to have a bad semester. Something should be done to address this problem within the nursing programs, and maybe that would help end the nursing shortage. One local school’s program in my community routinely starts a program with 60 students, but never graduates more than 17. They brag about their nclex scores, but they cull students who they think might not pass the nclex on the first try. I see that as a failure on the part of the schools program, not something to brag about.

  10. Avatar
    Brittany LaBarge August 4, 2019 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    I was dismissed for committing a HIPPA violation at my place of employment as a nurse intern. I took a picture of a patient having a procedure and posted it on social media. The patient could not be identified in the photograph however I did not have the patients permission to take care he photo. Many other staff was also taking pictures including the physician. Another student saw my post and reported it to my nursing instructor. Even though this occurred as an employee of the facility, not as a student. I was dismissed from my nursing program.

  11. Avatar
    Angel Brown December 9, 2019 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    I would really appreciate some advice or a point in the right direction. Ok, as of this past Friday I was dismissed from my nursing program and I only had 4 months till graduation. I feel as the instructors are weeding the class to make it smaller due to our class was still 20 large. The entire program I have had an 90-94 GPA and my issue was our preceptorship clinicals. I had no problems and I completed them very well as we had to be evaluated by the mentor at the end of each rotation. I was rated on my eval. With all 4 & 5 with exceptional remarks of how well I performed. But we also had to write what was called a clinical reflection paper etc. I wrote the papers for each one, but I started getting low grades and we must have an 80 at the end to pass. After the 2nd bad grade I bought this software called grammerly that was offered with a discount When our school have us emails. I used the software and to better my papers with grammerly and punctuation and the grade was worse than before with incorrect punctuation. I then go to class mates who are straight A students to look over and proof read and maybe tell me what is the difference of their paper vs. mine. They said everything looked fine and close to there’s I just added a few sentences that I should remove as is is a personal feeling and off topic. So I was really confused and then my instructor and the director pulled me in for a meeting. I explained I am having trouble writing the papers and I don’t understand why my grade is this when I had classmates proof read and their papers are 97’s?? In short they told me my classmates don’t want to tell me anything bad and I am writing in narrative and I should be writing nursing process. But I’m really confused now because the paper rubric said to write 3 concepts and refer to learning in class. Which is what I did, I wrote about my clinical experience of what skills I performed while there and explained how I did them along with relating to learning in class. I had a classmate look over my last paper and we had almost the same concepts. Difference is her paper was graded 97 and mine was graded 76 with comments from the instructor saying my concepts were very minimal at best. So I’m very hurt and distraught due, to I only needed a grade of an 80 on my last paper to pass. I have also had other papers with comments asking me why I wrote about the information I did ,and later hearing my classmates good grades they received and had used the same information as I did only difference was in my clinical group I went first. Is there anything I can do and being dismissed means I can not pick up the 2nd half later, I must start all over and being dismissed can that cause me to get denied from another program. One more comment, 2 months ago my dad was diagnosed with cancer in a 3rd major organ ( pancreas, kidney & liver) and was giving a Window of 8-12 months. Which I explained that to them and explained I was not out joking around I just hit a rough patch because my grades aren’t perfect but they have been above a 91 the entire time. I was then told “I have a target on my back, and I’m on the radar and that’s not good”. So I’m so lost and is there anything I can do??

  12. Avatar
    Tamanica D Sullivan December 11, 2019 at 7:39 am - Reply

    I was dismissed from the nursing program at GPTC for not scoring a 95% PoP the NCLEX on the first try. The instructor used this predictor exam as the final exam for the last class which was maternity. I scored an 89% PoP and surely will pass the NCLEX on my first try. I passed all of my nursing classes. My credits will not transfer anywhere else. If I go to another school I will have to start over and take classes that I have already passed and pay for them out of pocket. This program also helped people remain in the program by giving extra points, giving extra exams for people that were endanger of failing, etc. To keep their #2 ranking in the state they are preventing myself and 7 other classmates from taking the NCLEX and marking our transcript to reflect that we failed our last class. How can we fight this and ensure that this does not happen to anyone after us.

    • Avatar
      Chuck July 14, 2020 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      Hello I am in Ohio and my school Fortis is now all of a sudden changing the rules to needing a 900 on Hesi exam you have 2 attempts but if a 900 is not reached you will fail the course. Even if your are passing everything else. Wondering did you have any luck on your situation or do you have any insight on who I can contact even reach out to for help?

      • Avatar
        Megan Stabile July 11, 2021 at 2:28 pm - Reply

        I was just dismissed from Fortis ADN program for failing med surge twice. Keep in mind our classes have been online due to covid, so FUNDAMENTALS of nursing, was online. When we were able to go back to campus I was playing catch-up because I had never practiced the skills they required us to know. Now they said I can start over in the PN program HOWEVER they will not accept my NUR credits from THEIR OWN SCHOOL.

  13. Avatar
    Disgusted December 16, 2020 at 10:42 am - Reply

    I was dismissed from a nursing program because I had 2 tardies. My attendance was perfect and I was passing my courses. I was dismissed because I had 2 tardies!!!!! I had applied to get into another nursing program at the community college here and was not accepted due to my ACT score. But I had been out of school for over 30 years, so of course it was difficult for me to pass the ACT test. I later learned that another student in that same school did not even have to take an ACT test. There are unfair practices going on in regard to the requirements to be admitted to nursing school, the standards set to stay in nursing programs and the preferential treatment given to some students. There are too many Nursing Instructors who seem to be on major power trips and have the mentality of wanting to weed students out rather than wanting to see them succeed. This is during a Pandemic! This is during a Nursing Shortage! This is during a time when hospitals are begging retired nurses to come out of retirement due to the nursing shortage. It is nauseating!!!! I was enrolled in this nursing program with no health insurance during a pandemic because I wanted to help people and yet I was dismissed from a nursing program because I had 2 tardies. I had made As and Bs in my prerequisites to get into Nursing School and spent a lot of time, money and energy to get into nursing school and then when I was finally admitted, I was dismissed because I had 2 tardies. I know that I am not alone in my frustrations. I have known several other aspiring nurses who would have made excellent nurses, but due to the standards to get into nursing school and stay in nursing school, they did not succeed either. Something is very wrong when there is a Nursing Shortage (especially during a Pandemic) and aspiring nurses are not given more of a chance to succeed.

  14. Avatar
    I June 20, 2021 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    I just had a dismissal based on a BS made up evaluation that gave only to me which was outside of the normal curriculum. This is basically that they didn’t like that I ask questions and said we did not receive enough preparation due to COVID. Now I have to sue them. After looking at the above comments, I can see that this is common practice to steal students money and not give them the education and degree they paid for by slandering and abusing students. This has to stop!

  15. Avatar
    R.B. June 29, 2021 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    I have a friend who was dismissed from a private college’s nursing program A WEEK FROM HER GRADUATION DATE. She failed the same course twice (failed by 1.5 points on an exam – which was not even the final). They had a hearing and academically dismissed her. EVEN THOUGH her grades were better this time around – the professor curved the first time and got in a lot of trouble when they found that out. She was a straight As and Bs student minus this one class.

    This isn’t the first time her school has screwed her over either. Her first year – a professor failed over half of her class and was subsequently dismissed from the institution. However, instead of letting them retake transfer credits from a community college – they told them all that their program would be 5 years instead of 4 (meaning they had to retake the course the next year).

    She has no idea what to do next – is considering suing, but cannot really afford to.

    COVID really messed up her plans in the first place, and now this? She wanted to take her NCLEX and go into a nursing residency program. Eventually become an NP. Now she cannot do either.

  16. Avatar
    evans appiah July 8, 2021 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Hi there,

    I am dismissed from nursing school, which I have 3 months to complete. The reason for my dismissal was base on malpractice. Honestly, I helped a friend to take an exam online and it seems my friend betrayed me by mentioning that I helped her — but I did not mention my friend’s name when I was questioned. Although is my fault, it is painful for me to get dismissed for helping a friend, but my friend is still in the school. Any advice? Thank you.

  17. Avatar
    Lil September 2, 2021 at 7:22 am - Reply

    The only reason schools do this is to protect their Nclex passing rates. If you notice, it always happen towards the end of the program where your money is done. From what I’m seeing, this a typical behavior with a lot of schools. They know from the time you started who’s going to make it or not. Yet, no one is questioning why the majority of these students never failed anything until then. I have watched students go on vacations during school year, leaves school early, come in late or don’t show at all but ends up graduating . Something needs to be done about this

  18. Avatar
    Kb September 26, 2021 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    I was dismissed along with two other girls because we failed our pharmacology class. We passed the final but we had a teacher who was brand new and was horrible. All she cared about was getting married a couple weekends away. Well she took off to get married and never came back. So our administrator stepped in and quickly made a test up for us that the prior teacher failed to do. I got a bad grade and so did the other 3 that got dismissed. Even the A students got a low grade. But like I said I passed the final but that test from when that teacher never came back messed up my entire grade by 1 point. Never failed a class. Did great at clinicals..did all my homework..got along with everyone. I can’t believe there wasn’t a second chance due to the interruption of our teacher quitting on us

  19. Avatar
    K Owusu-Sarfo November 1, 2021 at 11:26 am - Reply

    It is sad to read all these comments about how students are unfairly dismissed from Nursing programs based on a vendors “standardized test.” Texas BON Education guidelines 3.7.4.a. related to the use of standardized examinations states “that programs should not use a standardized examination as a high-stakes examination with the exam score as a determinant for progression or graduation.” Yet these test have been used to destroy the dreams of many would-be Nurses in the USA. My post is in regards to students been dismissed from a program because they failed to get the pass mark on 90% in dosage calculation when they have just 4 weeks to graduate from a program. I see this as a cruel form of punishment which could also make victims suicidal, or even give up on their dream of becoming a nurse. This I believe will contribute to the worsening shortage of Nurses in the USA. The practice of failing in a course even before they start a whole course is very unfair. It takes one voice to get the attention of the authorities in-charge to remedy the situation. I believe a lot of students have fallen victim to this “elimination by rough tactics” in many school in the USA, and its time for stakeholders to review this polices. If the US constitution frowns on cruel and unusual-punishment, then I believe that dismissing a student who has few weeks to complete a program on the bases of not meeting a 90% pass mark when all other courses in the College require 70% pass mark is very unfair. I hope to get an attorney pro bono to seek justice for these affected students. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Avatar
      Jesse December 8, 2021 at 11:34 am - Reply

      My daughter is in this situation also , do you have any advice to anything I can do to help her ? She has all but given up but is out over $80,000 and hasn’t been able to find any schools she can transfer to .

    • Avatar
      Jasmine S. December 8, 2021 at 6:10 pm - Reply

      I can’t help but wonder, how has your search for an attorney gone? I am in this position and it is getting to the point where I most likely have to take this higher up than the institution. I am most likely going to fail out of my program without the possibility of re-entry because of 1 point on my final grade. I will lose my HOPE scholarship, I will most likely have to start repaying my student loans within 6-months, and was told that a lot of other nursing programs do not take students who have failed out of another nursing program before. Do you have any advice or have you sought counsel from someone in the legal department? Thank you.

  20. Avatar
    Dazzle Ovide March 31, 2022 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Hi there

    I was dismissed from a nursing program two months ago for a non-academic matter. I was dismissed for not being fully vaccinated and registering for in-person classes without being fully vaccinated. I was found on seven charges. I took the first dose of the vaccine June 2021 and was skeptical about taking the second dose. I attended a pop-up clinic and decided to take the second dose there. Not sure how the nursing director found out I did not take the second dose. I had to write a report of the events transpired; why I did not receive the second dose. There were other students who had one dose of the vaccine and they were attending in persons classes and pop-up clinic. I was the only one that the university dismissed. I am currently seeking educational advice in terms of what I should do next.

    The university chair suggested that I should get my credits transferred and complete the nursing assistant program at a community college for one year then reapply to the university and start over from scratch. This would be a tough journey, but I am not sure what other options I have. Due to my situation if I apply to an institution it is not guarantee that I would get accepted. I applied to two universities abroad but not sure if I’ll get in as a transfer student.

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