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Dismissed nursing student wants to know her rights

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.

By | 2018-11-12T19:55:38+00:00 November 12th, 2018|Categories: Nursing careers and jobs, Nursing education|18 Comments

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.

  13. Avatar
    Melissa January 6, 2020 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    I failed my final semester of Nursing school due to failing test grades. I completed preceptor ship and passed it. I was in class until the very last day and sat for the NCLeX prep class. I missed the grade by 1.3 points. I tried to appeal with the director of nursing and she talked me out of it. She told me to “audit” a class the semester before during the next fall semester. She then enrolled me for that semester, told me I had to do clinical again for that semester (I had already passed the class) and she charged me full price for that semester. I went to her office and told her I wasn’t able to afford that semester as well as the final semester out of pocket. I asked her if it would “ding” me for chance of returning for my last semester which was to start in the spring. She said it would not, and I would have to pass an assessment test and sit with a committee to get approval for re-entry. She told me to email her a letter explaining how I will succeed the second time, and submit it to her. She told me later on that I would have to take a brand new entrance test to get back in! I had only failed one class, and in our Handbook it says you are allowed one failed class. She kept adding more things for me to do that we’re not in the handbook. I took the re-entry TEAS and passed it, and was then told to take an assessment again (first time I wasn’t given a rubric). I did this. I received another email from the Dean stating my testing was good, but I need to practice more clinical skills. I am floored by this! Being out of school longer isn’t going to help my skills. Since I was not accepted back, that puts me two years behind my graduating class. I need assistance on how to go about pursuing this at this point.

  14. Avatar
    Anna January 8, 2020 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Nursing schools need to offer second chances. Many times students are facing dilemmas that may be out of their hands. Nursing school is intense, stressful, and rigorous. A professor told me it isn’t meant to be easy and it prepares you for stressful situations in the field. Which I understand, but sometimes 16 credit hours with different clinicals; clinical work, work to pay bills, family, and if there are other obligations, such as caring for a loved one (eg., a parent with dementia, MS, etc.). Some students may be facing homelessness and lack of food or have no moral or financial support at all. These things weigh on you. There needs to be more empathy for fellow nursing students. Allowing for late withdrawals and petitioning for readmittance, in this process have supporting documents to help support your case as a student.

    My school incorporated a mentoring program for a certain race that is prevalent in the area and sees most of the disparity in the community, to help improve their numbers because many in this group struggled to finish. A lot of times it was basic (finances, family) or life events that held them back. The mentoring program offered advocacy, stipend, and helped with resources that are needed if available. They insured you had support, and they were aware of your situation if you were having hardship.

    Too many times people pride themselves on what they accomplished while under a huge amount of stress. This attitude can be damaging for some, because of the lack of empathy and placing further obstacles in a person’s path to accomplishing their goal. No doubt there are some mean, hateful people and get a power trip being an authority and get away with mistreating certain people or groups of people. Just as in a job there is an equal employment opportunity or a law against discrimination, which is also meant for the student at a college/university.

    If you feel you been discriminated against look into it. Hearing your stories of mistreatment is exactly what many face. But don’t give up, if nursing is your passion and ultimate goal keep the faith and pray. There are options out there, sometimes it does take a mentor or advocate to help.

  15. Avatar
    Diane January 12, 2020 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Stop wasting your time. You failed. Retake and this will help you be more prepared for your licensing exam.

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