Another Frivolous Lawsuit?

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A University nursing student who twice failed to pass a required course has filed a federal lawsuit against the institution alleging she “broke down and wept more than once” during a final exam because her professor didn’t do enough to help her.

The student began her nursing program in 2010 with an existing predisposition that caused anxiety and depression, and throughout her time at the university she “experienced great anxiety as a result of her many challenges, both socially and academically, as well as medical issues with her family,” the lawsuit contends.

Her lawyer also noted that she struggled throughout the program, but appeared to be making progress towards her nursing degree, although with primarily below average grades.

In the spring of 2014, the student failed Functional Health Patterns of Adults IV, a required course that nursing students must pass with at least a C. She then took the course again that summer.

For the final exam that summer, the student was given some accommodations — she was allowed more time to complete the test and could take it in a “distraction-free environment,” according to the suit. The teacher also offered to allow her to ask questions during the test, the complaint says.

However, during the test, the student repeatedly called the teacher on her cellphone and got no response. Her lawyer states that the teacher’s failure to be available to during the examination created an even more stressful environment for the student, leading her to break down and cry.

In the end, the student did not receive a sufficient score to pass the course and graduate with a nursing degree.

The student filed suit this month alleging the University — along with the school President, the chairwoman of the nursing department, and the nursing professor — violated the Federal Rehabilitation Act and should be liable for unspecified damages in excess of $75,000.

There’s a few issues here.

First, I cannot imagine a teacher not doing whatever they can to help accommodate a student who has special needs, while still maintaining the integrity of the learning process.

Second, students need to do some personal reflection occasionally and ask themselves if what they are studying best matches their strengths. If this student already has anxiety and depression issues, and is earning below average grades in nursing courses, should she really be pursuing a nursing degree?

I would imagine the stress of actually being a nurse is greater than the stress of studying to be a nurse, and I doubt that her employer would be able to give her any accommodations that would be more helpful than what she received during college.

I also can’t imagine how difficult the national nursing licensing exam would likely be for this student, and the tremendous amount of stress that is going to cause her.

The college also needs to accept some responsibility (which they may have). With all of the data analytics that are available these days, I am sure it would be easy enough for college administrators to get periodic reports on struggling students. The college should offer counseling to such students, in the form of suggesting other majors, or setting periodic goals that the student must meet.

Perhaps the nursing program could set minimum GPA guidelines that need to be met each semester, and if they are not, then a student is put on probation. If the student does not get his or her grades above the minimum, then he or she can no longer be enrolled in that particular program.

Again, it may be that the college in question is already has such counseling and support programs in place.

But at the end of the day, at least based on what I have read so far, this is another case of someone not taking personal responsibility for their actions and performance.

I am not questioning the student’s work ethic; I assume that she is working as hard as she can, but maybe she’s just not working smart.

I understand wanting to pursue a dream, but if such pursuit is causing anxiety and depression, then you may need to look for other ways to achieve your dream. There are likely many options available to her if she wants to work in health care – perhaps as a CNA or a technician – that would not be as stressful as a nurse, but could still give the same sense of helping others.

I wish her the best, but I also hope that she drops her lawsuit. It’s time to move on.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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