Student and faculty perceptions: appropriate consequences of lapses in academic integrity in health sciences education

BMC Med Educ. 2019 Jun 13;19(1):209. doi: 10.1186/s12909-019-1645-4.


Background: A breadth of evidence supports that academic dishonesty is prevalent among higher education students, including students in health sciences educational programs. Research suggest individuals who engage in academic dishonesty may continue to exhibit unethical behaviors in professional practice. Thus, it is imperative to appropriately address lapses in academic dishonesty among health sciences students to ensure the future safety of patients. However, students and faculty have varying perceptions of what constitutes academic dishonesty and the seriousness of breaches in academic dishonesty. The purpose of this study is to gain health sciences faculty and students' perceptions on the appropriate consequences of lapses in academic integrity.

Methods: Faculty and students from different health care disciplines were asked to complete the anonymous survey in which 10 different academic (non-clinical) and clinical scenarios were presented. For each scenario, students or faculty needed to address their concern and assign an academic consequence that they considered appropriate (ranked from no consequence to dismissal). A mixed-effects model was used to assess the difference of questionnaire scores between subgroups. The study was completed in the Spring of 2017.

Results: A total of 185 faculty and 295 students completed the electronic survey. Across all survey questions (clinical and non-clinical), the perceived severity of the behavior predicted the consequence chosen by the respondent, indicating that both faculty and students assigned what they felt to be appropriate consequences directly based on their values and perceptions. Both faculty and students show congruence in their opinions regarding the perceived seriousness of clinical cases (p = 0.220) and the recommended consequences assigned to such lapses (p = 0.110). However, faculty and students statistically significantly disagreed in their perception of the severity of non-clinical academic dishonesty scenarios and recommended consequences (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Our research supports the need for collaborative work between faculty and students in putting forth clear guidelines on how to manage and uphold rules related to lapses in academic integrity not only for non-clinical situations, but especially for clinical ones in a health care setting. Recommendations from this research include using an honor code utilized in clinical settings.

Keywords: Academic integrity; Appropriate consequences; Clinical settings; Dentistry; Healthcare education; Medicine; Nursing; Perception; Pharmacy; Sanctions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Education, Medical / ethics*
  • Faculty, Medical / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult