A nursing student sent me an email in which she expressed concern about withdrawing from school. The student said she attended a private BSN program and that the withdrawal was not due to academic issues.
Rather, according to the nursing student, the withdrawal was prompted by the school and its faculty constantly “being hostile” toward her and saying she somehow “violated their code of ethics.”
She also said she felt bullied into withdrawing from school and wanted to know what she should do to complete her goal of obtaining a BSN.
The student did not specifically identify how the school and the nursing faculty were hostile to her. Nor did she share details about their purported bullying or their bias.
The student did indicate that her violation of the nursing program’s code of ethics was “charting based” during a clinical rotation.
Incivility in Nursing Education
Although it is unclear if this student’s interpretations of her experiences are accurate, research shows that bullying and other forms of incivility in nursing education programs does exist.
In academia, incivility can be seen as conduct that causes a disruption in the learning environment. Faculty themselves can display behaviors that result in a nursing student’s perception of incivility.
According to research, nursing students found belittling, taunting, intimidation, humiliation, and use of sarcasm or profanity by faculty to be displays of uncivil behavior.
Students who are on the receiving end of this kind of conduct reported psychological and physiological symptoms, including anger, depression, anxiety, and feeling dehumanized, which can be a major cause of nursing student attrition.
What Does Withdrawing From School Entail?
It is hoped that the nursing student followed the nursing program’s withdrawal requirements spelled out in the program’s handbook.
These mandates would include notifying the appropriate administrator (e.g., dean of the nursing program, dean of students), participating in an exit interview, discussing reinstatement procedures and, if applicable, seeking help from the Financial Aid office in order to obtain any refund due.
The next step would be to consult with an attorney to determine what legal options the student might have because of the incivility she experienced.
Because the nursing program is a private one, the student has only those rights listed in the student and college handbook. If the nursing program’s handling of the situation was arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory a lawsuit might be possible.
The purpose of the lawsuit would be for the student to be reinstated into the program.
A lawsuit would need to be supported by actual facts and specific details of how the school and the nursing faculty’s conduct contributed to her “involuntary” withdrawal. Mere accusations will not be enough.
The student also will want to provide copies of the nursing program student handbook and the college’s handbook to the attorney in order to review what policies and procedures apply to withdrawing from school.
She also should review the consequences of violating the adopted code of ethics. How is a violation handled? Were the provisions applied to this student? If not, why?
Keep in mind that the student withdrew from her program; she was not dismissed. The attorney may be able to argue withdrawing from school was not voluntary — that she was treated so badly she had no choice but to withdraw.
One of the possible strong points of her withdrawal is that if the student’s “charting error” was a violation of the program’s code of ethics, were there options spelled out in the handbooks that could help address this error such as a remedial course in charting?
In her email, the nursing student asked if reinstatement into the nursing program is possible and wise. Other issues surround any reinstatement as well. Is there a time frame required before reinstatement can take place? Under what circumstances can reinstatement occur?
Perhaps a better option for this student is to apply to another nursing program. However, she may lose time and credits and experience other setbacks.
Had the student sought legal advice before withdrawing from school, the end result might have been more positive. For example, a negotiated solution with the school might have been possible.
Whatever the situation, a student should utilize all available resources for advice and direction — including a consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney who represents students in higher education — before taking action.
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