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Critical incidents of incivility by nursing students: How uncivil encounters with students affect nursing faculty

Susan Marie Luparell, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Twenty-one nursing faculty with various years of experience in teaching were interviewed to ascertain what they considered to be critical incidents of uncivil encounters with nursing students and what effect those encounters had on them. Thirty-six encounters were described by faculty. Thirty-three of the encounters occurred with individual students and three encounters occurred with groups of students. Although males comprise 5.4% of the nursing workforce (Spratley, Johnson, Sochalski, Fritz, & Spencer, 2002), male students acting uncivilly toward a female faculty member accounted for 43.8% of the incidents involving single students. ^ A battle field metaphor is used to describe the incidents, their antecedents, and their consequences. The behaviors exhibited by the students ranged from mildly aggressive to severely aggressive. No faculty member identified physical contact. Nonetheless, several faculty identified significant perceptions of threat to personal well-being conveyed in student actions and words. A feeling of surprise at the student behavior was a common theme from the faculty participants. Twenty-three encounters occurred in the context of poor student performance requiring constructive criticism or course failure. Eight incidents occurred in regards to exams or grading. Three were in response to student displeasure with some other aspect of the instructor's teaching. No clear triggering event could be determined for two incidents. ^ The incidents described held significance for the faculty even after extended periods of time had passed. Faculty responded to the encounters with a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, some of which mimicked post traumatic stress syndrome. Participants described loss of sleep, damage to self-esteem, and diminished confidence in teaching skill. Significant use of time and financial resources to deal with the aftermath of the encounters was also described. Three faculty members left teaching as a consequence of their encounters and others have contemplated leaving academia in response to the encounters. The ramifications to nursing are discussed, suggestions for change within nursing education are posited, and additional areas of research are identified. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Nursing|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Luparell, Susan Marie, "Critical incidents of incivility by nursing students: How uncivil encounters with students affect nursing faculty" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3092571.