I reported my clinical instructor for threatening behavior and now I feel I am being discriminated against for speaking up. What can I do?

By | 2022-02-23T14:41:48-05:00 April 12th, 2013|4 Comments


Dear Donna,

I am a senior nursing student who reported my clinical instructor for her threatening behavior toward me and for a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act violation concerning a fellow student. In the month following my report, my instructor issued me multiple written academic warnings and noted an incident of an unacceptable practice. The nursing dean threatened me with expulsion, banned me from returning to my clinical assignment and said I will receive a failing grade in my lecture and lab classes. The dean advised me not to seek further clinical experience at the facility I was assigned to and where I had been planning to apply for employment. My lab classmates have ostracized me — several nursing faculty who had previously helped me have stopped talking to me or advised me they are not allowed to talk to me for fear of repercussions.

I am a mature student in my 50s and my academic record includes commendations from all previous nursing clinical instructors. I believe I have been discriminated against for speaking up and am afraid to continue at this school. However, I cannot start over at another school due to financial and time constraints.

Nursing is my passion, but I am being worn down by this treatment. I’ve come too far to let go of my dream. What can I do to find my way through this?

Threatened Student

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Threatened Student,

If you believe you are being discriminated against or punished as retaliation and your education is being jeopardized, I recommend you find a nurse attorney and discuss your situation. A nurse attorney is uniquely qualified to help with issues that relate to nursing and the law. Find a nurse attorney through referral from your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org) or The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (www.taana.org). It will help to have a professional advise and support you as well as advocate for you and take whatever action, if any, may be warranted.

Best wishes,

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  1. Avatar
    Molly Bales September 14, 2020 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    I am a second year nursing student. Due to COVID 19, my class has had only a handful of clinical hours. I attend Bluefield State College in Bluefield, WV. Bluefield State has a passing percentage 78%…… the Beckley WV campus, that is supposed to follow the same instruction, has a passing percentage of 96%. I was in the top ten of my high school and always excelled in Anatomy, Biology, and Chemistry……I maintained a GPA of over 4.0 throughout high school, so I wouldn’t consider myself slow or not ready to learn. I am aware nursing isn’t easy, but this class seems nearly impossible. We have valedictorians that aren’t passing, or are barely passing. The instructors laugh when people drop out, and they have encouraged many to quit. The only grades we are given are on tests and quizzes, yet we have, in excess of about 40 hours a week of busy work, that we get no credit for. On every test, we find anywhere from 3-8 questions that have been marked wrong incorrectly. On a single test, we have had as much as 24 points taken from our grade that shouldn’t have been. We point out the mistakes to the instructors in the books, and they say “”Well……”, and they give their reason why they feel the answer is incorrect, despite the correct answer showed to them in black and white. There have been occasions where they agree that they have made a mistake, but instead of giving us all the credit for the mistake they made, they only give us half of the points. Much of the material isn’t covered in lectures, but the expect us to know it. That is easier for them to say……they have been nurses for as long as 20 years……we have been students for a little over a year, and half of that year, we pretty much taught ourself at home, plus, we have had about zero clinical experience. The days we were at clinicals, we gave bed baths, and that is it. Most of us study NCLEX reviews because that’s all we know to do. Some of the questions they put on the tests are from those reviews, and even then, they will mark our answers wrong incorrectly. For example, today, the question asked what the RN would designate to the UAP while caring for a patient with a chest tube. The answer on the NCLEX review was “record output every 8 hours”. In our nursing handbook, it says the UAP is able to record input and output, but they marked it wrong. The NCLEX review gave an explanation on why the other answers were wrong, but it doesn’t matter and there is nothing we can do to get our points. There were about four other questions exactly like that just today. More than half the class failed the test, and the test last Monday, all but one failed…… and the one that passed, only passed by one or two points. We have came together and tried speaking to the dean of the school, the president, the dean of nursing…… and they do nothing to help us. They tell us we need to speak to the nursing instructors……. but that has proven useless. We have came to the conclusion that their goal is to either fail us, or keep us on a tiny string in every class until graduation. They have given us a test on over 40 chapters with no study guide. I’ve never seen anything like it. Could someone give me advice on who we could talk to for some assistance. We are not willing to fail just because our instructors want to be right. Nursing school isn’t cheap and we aren’t willing to waste our money. This is totally unfair and I do not think what they are doing is legal……and it definitely is not ethical. I would appreciate any and all information.

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      Nancy March 22, 2021 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      I am going through this in Canada. I am in the Practical Nursing program RPN. They don’t care, nursing teachers only pass the best, so they can pass the final exam. Deans allow it in schools because they make money off the failing students. Students get abused when they are nursing students and when they graduate they end up abusing each other. I do not know how this is allowed for so many years. It started a long time ago and people just turn their back and ignore it, or say you are not meant for this calling or you don’t understand, you are not working in the field. I do not know why nurses when they graduate don’t stop this. I am completing my first year and moving on from the career. This is why we have a shortage of nurses, the school has too high of expectations on people, any mistake, they give zero for the whole entire exam on the hands-on test. They are not graduating the best nurses, I worked with lots and they are pretty shady people with no compassion. If anybody speaks up different nurses will go after that person for speaking the truth or they lose their license. Dictatorship. it is really sad and disappointing. They really need to have the old nursing program where you learned theory in the morning and go practice skills in the hospital

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    Heartbroken May 13, 2021 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    I have had the same issue. I passed all my nursing classes with As and Bs. But my final nursing class I was failed for a 1 Point difference one day before graduating with my Associates Degree. I’m crushed. I did all my clinical time and all my assignments and only missed one day of class. We get 1 point for every Class day. I emailed her and her supervisor and the dean and everyone told me to retake the class. I have 2 kids and work my butt off to be a good student. But this seems personal. I cried all day and I feel like a huge disappointment. I never made a fuss about anything or argued. We have to have an 80% to pass each class. I don’t understand how they can ruin my entire nursing career. I can retake the course over the summer through another college but I don’t know if I can afford it. I’ve already paid a ridiculous amount for everything. Some instructors are just miserable.

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    Alisha Roberts November 19, 2022 at 12:42 am - Reply

    I am incredibly concerned. I am an LPN student, and I have a clinical instructor who doesn’t like me. She is the only one I struggle with and most of the other class does too, but they are afraid to speak up in fear of getting a failing grade or kicked out of the program. Whenever I did skill pass off with her, she would fail me. One time I nicely told her she makes me nervous. I have test anxiety and she used that against me saying I needed to get it under control. At clinicals she will not assign me to a nurse and only assigns me to a CNA. I am almost done with my geriatrics clinicals and, in total, only followed a nurse for 12 hrs. I score good on exams and all, but she won’t allow me the training I need. I don’t know what to do. I’m not getting the same training for medication administration and I don’t know what to do.

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