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5 ways you can get kicked out of nursing school

Remember those first days (daze) of nursing school? Those pangs of fear and anxiety — what if you blank on an exam? What if you embarrass yourself in clinicals? Of course you’ll be on your best behavior those first few days. But what happens after you get comfortable with your professors and the nursing program?

Getting cocky, or worse yet sloppy, can quickly earn you your walking papers. Here are five ways a nursing student can get expelled.

1. Ignoring the rules.
At the beginning of your first clinical, you’ll be given a student handbook. Read it! Highlight those rules and policies that you may have difficulty with and begin to work on your weaknesses. Don’t forget that school policies are for everyone; your behavior is not an exception to the rules.

Breaking with HIPAA is another reason for expulsion; never discuss a patient’s information outside of the clinical setting. Also, never report to clinical under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or narcotics. The possession of alcohol or illegal drugs at a clinical site can also get you expelled. Most facilities have smoking bans, so don’t even think about lighting up in nonsmoking areas.

Keep your cell phone in your car or book bag. Most programs forbid cell phone use during clinical. And never take pictures of your patients or their procedures. You can be expelled and possibly prosecuted if Mr. Jones’s laparoscopic cholecystectomy ends up on YouTube without his, the hospital’s and/or school’s permission. Did you know that a felony conviction of any kind may be cause to deny nursing licensure?

2. Not completing assignments or cheating.
You may be given a syllabus at the beginning of your classes. Follow it. Most nursing programs allow a student to hand in late assignments, with the professor’s approval, until the end of the marking period or semester. If you begin to struggle in a class, ask for help.

Never refuse to hand in an assignment because you didn’t understand it. Your professors would rather see you in their office asking for help when you begin to struggle than when the assignment is past due. Go to your professor during his or her open office hours or send an email asking for a time that you can sit down and go over homework assignments that are giving you trouble. Too many missing assignments can bring your grade point average down, and all nursing programs have GPA requirements.

NEVER cheat or plagiarize. All programs have rules about plagiarism and cheating and will enforce them if a student is caught cheating doing either. Many schools have computer programs that check for plagiarism, so cite everything.

3. Skipping classes or clinical.
The U.S. Department of Education has a 10 percent excused absence rule in programs that use a clock hour program. Maximum excused absences are based on the nursing program’s clocked hours, so if your program has 780 clock hours for the duration of the program, you can only be excused 78 hours; any more than that and you can be expelled.

If you have an emergency that keeps you from attending classes, call the program director or your professors and let them know what you’re going through. Some programs allow for extensions when you’re facing difficulties. Think of school like a job: A no-show/no-call is subject to losing a job and getting kicked out of school. If you’re expelled or wish to leave in the middle or end of your training/schooling, most programs require you to pay back any financial aid that you received.

4. Lack of preparation.
Make sure you’ve taken CPR and have all immunizations and health forms completed prior to attending your first clinical. If the facility where you’re doing your clinical requires you to receive the flu vaccine, you’d better get one. If you’re allergic, get a note from your physician.

If your program insists on you wearing the school uniform to preclinical, clinical and/or classes, then wear it. Don’t show up to clinical without your uniform or with a dirty uniform. You are representing the school and the nursing profession, so be professional.

I know of one nursing student who got sent home because he wore the wrong color socks! Some programs are that strict. Bottom line: Not being prepared more than once could cause you to get the boot.

5. Going rogue.
Doing a procedure on a living, breathing patient without your nursing professor observing you, and/or harassing or causing harm to a patient or another student is a serious no-no.
It’s okay to practice procedures in the SIMS lab, but don’t try it at the hospital on a human subject without the professor’s approval or observation.

You’re working under your professor’s nursing license, so do no harm! If you try a procedure on your own and someone gets injured, you are liable—and so are the school and your professor. There are also rules about harassment and physical abuse to another person while in the clinical setting. Any conduct during clinical, on campus or in the clinical setting that threatens or endangers the health, safety or welfare of a person can get you expelled. Never carry a firearm to clinical. Hard to imagine anyone would get that one wrong — but if it’s written in a student handbook, you have to guess someone did it at least once. We’re not making this up, folks!

No one wants to be a nursing school dropout. Getting familiar with and following the rules outlined in your school’s student handbook is the best bet. This small measure of common sense will have you walking down the aisle on graduation day with flying colors. Good luck!

Editor’s note: For programs that don’t follow/no longer follow the clock hour system, many schools allow up to three unexcused absences. Beyond that, a student can be expelled.

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Candace Finch, BSN, RN

Candace Finch, BSN, RN is an orthopedic and bariatric nurse. Candace began her nursing career after the age of 40 and recently completed her BSN from Empire State College Distance Learning. She is a firm believer that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. As a mother of two children with Type 1 Diabetes, she has learned that whatever God gives you can be used to benefits others. She enjoys quiet time with her husband and family, reading non-fiction books, listening to contemporary Christian music and traveling with her daughter to Disney World.
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