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Hot Topic: Was nursing student’s punishment fair?

A story on the front page of the “Sunday Monitor” about a nursing student at NHTI drew considerable response from readers. Here’s a sampling:

No compromise
on compassion

I read the story this weekend regarding the student nurse at NHTI and the school’s decision to suspend the student from the program for a basic character flaw (“A question of ethics,” Sunday Monitor front page, Dec. 9).

It sounded like a lot of miscommunication and not a basic character flaw on the part of the student nurse.

The nursing student thought she had permission to keep the set of surgical scrubs because she asked a hospital employee if she could keep them as a memento. The nursing instructor said the student did not ask the correct employee; therefore she accused the student of lying and stealing.

This situation could have been a teaching moment. It is not the duty of nursing instructors to “weed out” nursing students but to teach nursing students.

The instructor should have instructed the student on why taking the scrubs was a problem.

The student could have been requested to pay for the surgical scrubs (or return the surgical scrubs), along with a letter of explanation and apology. This would have been a lesson the student would never forget.

One of the most basic qualities a nurse should have is compassion, and the NHTI nursing program should show this student some compassion. The student needs to learn a lesson in this case, but the nursing program should not compromise on compassion.



The appropriate
ethical standard

I would like to applaud NHTI for holding its students to the appropriate ethical standard (“A question of ethics,” Sunday Monitor front page, Dec. 9).

In asking a staff member if she could keep the scrubs, Heather Stickney disregarded her professor’s instruction in professional conduct. The very idea of obtaining a “memento,” as if from a tourist destination, violates the trust that the focus should be on the patient, not on the staff, and certainly not on the student nurse.

It was not apparent anywhere in the article that Stickney took any responsibility for this “misunderstanding,” only that she seemed to feel that her having “exceptional” clinical skills put her above not only the accepted rules of the profession, but the law.

One nurse’s behavior has the power to harm the whole profession.

I hope that no nurse is admitted into the profession without a clear understanding of that important responsibility.



NHTI’s overly
harsh penalty

Re “A question of ethics” (Sunday Monitor front page, Dec. 9):

I wonder if the Monitor would like to pursue this more fully; I think it would be great if it did. The appeals process doesn’t seem at all timely, and the administration of the School of Nursing at NHTI seems callous as to what the multiple effects of their decision can be.

Heather Stickney’s action probably did warrant a correction of some sort, but the penalty seems overly harsh. How often does the appeals board rule in favor of the student petitioner?

Nursing as a profession likes to talk about erasing the culture of horizontal violence. It would be nice to see that exemplified at the college level.



Legacy Comments1

To Erin, this was my apology and I took FULL responsibility. Professor Tetreault, I am desperate to speak with you about this incident. Since I have not been able to meet with you yet and right now my career and life goals hang in the balance, I am resorting to writing to you. I misread all the cues I thought I was getting from you on that night. I felt that we had reached a point in our student-teacher relationship where there was a certain amount of comfort and that there was room for humor. I have come to feel that you have confidence in my abilities and that I was a competent and safe student. With this assumption, I took the liberty of engaging in what I thought was a humorous exchange with you. I felt our back-and-forth joking about the scrubs was light-hearted and fun. I held no devious intent when I returned the scrubs, and I was elated when the man who seemed to be in charge gave me permission to keep them. When I came back to the floor, I was so sure that you were still joking with me that instead of telling you that the gentleman in linens had told me to keep the scrubs, I continued in the vein that I felt you and I had been earlier. I was certain that it was apparent to you that I was bringing the scrubs home and that you found it to be a small and certainly amusing quirk. I was completely wrong. I overstepped my bounds as a student, misread the situation and did something that must seem to be deviant and deceitful. Please hear me when I say that this is a miscommunication between you and I and not an ethical issue. In nursing school and in all matters in life I hold myself to an extremely high code of conduct with people I love as well as those who I work with. The fact that you have understood the incident on the 9th as deceit on my part crushes me for more reasons than I think I can convey. On the top of my list is remorse that you now find me to be untrustworthy and have deemed me unethical. I am aware that there is no way to guarantee that your renewed trust in me would be well placed. I am defending my misunderstanding of the situation, I was wrong. I made a gross mistake. I understand that you may feel that I had bad judgment in this case. I do not understand why you would insist on having it cost my career. I have been in two clinical rotations with you. I have brought several incidents to your attention that were overlooked by the hospital staff. The patient is and always has been my first priority above all else. I love being a nursing student and I know that I will love being a nurse even more. I pay attention to small details with my patients. In several instances in clinical, I have shown to have good instincts concerning patient conditions. I love this career. I want to take care of people, and I feel that I will do a good job. I feel that you know this as well. If you uphold your decision to fail me for this misunderstanding about the scrubs, you are guaranteeing that I will not become a nurse. Yes, I will continue to be an LNA, and I will be a good one, but you know first hand that I can be so much more than just a good LNA. Please reconsider you decision. The punishment does not fit the crime. I erred. I know I have erred greatly. But, please understand me when I say that there was no intended deceit. No ill intent. I misread the situation. I have always respected your authority and experience in the clinical field. I would never have intentionally deceived you. This is a simple misunderstanding on my part. Please do not make me pay for it for the rest of my life.

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