WGU Nursing Programs Standards of Professional Conduct and Process for Dispositional Disciplinary Action


The WGU nursing programs set forth principles, standards and rules regarding proficiencies, dispositions and professional practice expected of the WGU nursing student and graduate, and describe the process for disciplinary action if a nursing student violates these principles, standards, and rules.
I. Department of Nursing Mission
The mission the Department of Nursing is to make a positive difference in the lives of our students and the practice of nursing through a professionally supported, competency-based and student-focused learning model for working adults that promotes success in educational goals and sustained professional commitment. The Department of Nursing is committed to the formation of confident, caring, and competent professional nurses prepared to meet emerging healthcare needs of diverse populations. 
II. Proficiencies, Dispositions and Professional Practice
In keeping with Department of Nursing’s mission, nursing students and graduates of WGU’s nursing programs are expected to have the needed proficiencies and to demonstrate the professional dispositions appropriate to the field of nursing. Nursing students and graduates are expected to follow the principles described in the following policies: 

ANA Code of Ethics
ANA’s Principles for Social Networking for Nurses

III. Professional Dispositions:
The student is expected to demonstrate the following dispositions appropriate to the field of nursing:


    • Competent and Caring: Evidence of an awareness and response to the needs of others.
    • Respectful and Embracing of Diversity
    • Reflective Practitioner: Evidence of any or all of the following reflective facets: analysis, reasoning, explanation, connections, implications to personal or professional practice, etc.
    • Safe: Evidence of an awareness and practice of safety in all clinical settings including skills/simulation labs.
    • Professional Practice: Evidence of professionalism in appearance, timeliness, and interactions. 
    • Collaborative Professional: Evidence of a willingness or attempt to work collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team in a professional environment.
    • Professional Leaders and Change Agents: Evidence of willingness to examine evidence-based research and consider different perspectives presented, which is an indicator of emergent professional leadership and change skills.
    • General Disposition: Evidence of general behaviors that are consistent with the expected behavior of a future professional nurse according to the Code of Ethics for Nurses.


IV. Standards of Conduct
WGU has further defined the proficiencies, dispositions and professional standards expected in the field of nursing and of WGU Nursing students as follows:
Standard 1 – Criminal Acts
In addition to the Nurse Practice Act of the state in which they practice, WGU nursing students shall abide by federal, state, and local laws and statutes. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to:
The commission of or conviction for a felony or misdemeanor offense, including DUI/BUI, but excluding minor traffic violations such as speeding, following too closely, and improper lane changes, as used herein, “conviction” includes a finding or verdict of guilt, a plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere. Students have an obligation to report convictions to the nursing department.
Standard 2 – Abuse of Patients
A student should always maintain a professional relationship with all patients, both in and outside a clinical setting. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to:


  • Committing any act of abuse (physical or emotional) or any act of cruelty or patient endangerment.
  • Committing or soliciting any unlawful sexual act or committing any act of sexual harassment.
  • Soliciting, encouraging, or consummating a romantic or inappropriate relationship with a patient (including dating a student), whether written, verbal, physical, or implied.
  • Furnishing alcohol or illegal/unauthorized drugs to any patient.
  • Encouraging, promoting, extolling, or supporting any illegal, unethical, inappropriate, or dangerous activity.

Standard 3 – Alcohol or Drugs
Nursing students must refrain from the abuse of alcohol or drugs during the course of professional practice. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to:


  • Being on clinical premises or at a WGU-sponsored activity while under the influence of, possessing, using, or consuming alcohol or performance altering drugs.
  • Additional information can be found in the Nursing Student Impairment Policy.

Standard 4 – Misrepresentation or Falsification
Nursing students must exemplify honesty and integrity in the course of professional practice. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to:


  • Falsifying, deliberately misrepresenting, or omitting professional qualifications, college credit and/or degrees, academic awards, and employment history when applying for enrollment.
  • Falsifying, deliberately misrepresenting, or omitting information in patient care documentation/medical records.
  • Falsifying, deliberately misrepresenting, or omitting reasons for absences or leaves.

Standard 5 – Improper Remunerative Conduct
Nursing students must maintain integrity with patients, family members, colleagues, patrons, or businesses when accepting gifts, gratuities, and favors. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to:


  • Soliciting patients, or friends/family members of patients, to purchase any item or service from a nursing student in a private remunerative capacity.
  • Accepting gifts from patients and/or friends/family members , vendors, or potential vendors for personal use or gain where there may be the appearance of a conflict of interest.
  • Providing nursing care outside of WGU-scheduled or approved clinical time while representing self as a WGU nursing student.

Standard 6 – Confidential Information
Nursing students must comply with state and federal laws and clinical agency policies relating to the confidentiality of patient care records, unless disclosure is required or permitted by law. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to:


  • Sharing of confidential information concerning health and medical information and any identifying patient information.

WGU further clarifies the policy of confidentiality with the following Keys to Confidentiality:


  • Do not discuss patients or any identifying data in public settings such as cafeterias, elevators, hallways, over the phone, with family or friends, with other patients or where patients might overhear conversations.
  • Discussion of patients should only occur in approved settings such as giving or taking reports or in a clinical conference.
  • Use patient initials in all discussions and on written documents. Destroy all notes and computer-generated papers after completing assignments.
  • Protect the integrity of medical records and do not copy or transmit material from medical records.
  • If you have concerns about client confidentiality, check with your instructor to obtain guidance.
  • Along with failure to exhibit critical behaviors that reflect the professional standards for legal/ethical conduct, major infractions of conduct and behavior as set forth in the general University catalog will be grounds for dismissal from the nursing program. These include, but are not limited to, consumption of alcoholic beverages before or during clinical; illegal drug usage; impaired behavior; abusive language, and/or disruptive behavior with mentors, instructors or agency staff.

V. Violation of Ethics, Standards, or Disposition within WGU Nursing Programs: 
Process for Disciplinary Action
Conduct unbecoming of a professional nurse can constitute valid reason for the faculty not to recommend a student for clinical placement or progression, licensure, or to recommend removal of the student from an educational program at WGU. Failure to adhere to the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics, WGU Standards of Conduct, or Professional Dispositions may result in disciplinary action up to and including expulsion from the university in egregious instances.
Filing and Investigation of Concerns
A Concern alleging a violation of the standards of professional conduct described in this code may be submitted by a student, program mentor, course instructor, staff member, clinical instructor, lab instructor or clinical agency personnel. All Concerns must be submitted in writing to the Health Professions Success Center. All warnings and sanctions issued by the WGU Academic Authenticity Team will result in a concurrent investigation and possible sanctions from the Health Professions Success Center, based on the severity of the incident.
The Health Professions Success Center will categorize each concern according to the following rubric and notify the affected student.


  • Level 1 Concerns:  A first time violation of one or more of the Professional Dispositions, Ethical Standards or Standards of Conduct, subject to exceptions for “serious” and “egregious” violations of the Professional Standards.
  • Level 2 Concerns: A second violation or any violation deemed “serious”. Examples of serious violations include, but are not limited to: harassment, threats, actions that represent a potential for harm to patients, families, staff or clinical partner property, visible or discernable mental or physical impairment, disruptive behavior that interferes with patient care, clinical processes, cheating or misuse of learning resources or other program materials,  or the learning environment and violations of the WGU Code of Student Conduct resulting in a Level 2 warning.
  • Level 3 Concerns: A third violation or any violation deemed “egregious”. Examples of egregious violations include, but are not limited to: misrepresentation or falsification of information, physical or verbal abuse of patients or other persons, criminal misconduct, violations of patient confidentiality, abuse or misuse of personal property of others, patient neglect or abandonment, and violations of the WGU Code of Student Conduct resulting in disciplinary suspension.
  • Academic Authenticity Warnings: For all academic authenticity warnings issued by WGU, the Health Professions Success Center will issue an automatic and corresponding Corrective Action from the College of Health Professions.

The Health Professions Success Center will investigate each Concern within 10 business days to determine the appropriate manner in which to proceed.
Informal Resolution
A member of the Health Professions Success Center will contact the affected student by email to arrange a time to discuss each concern and attempt to resolve behavioral changes required to align the student’s conduct with the standards of professional conduct described in this code. If a student fails to respond to this meeting request within three business days, or if corrective behavioral changes cannot be agreed informally, the concern will become subject to corrective action.

Corrective Actions   
Where Health Professions Success determines that there is sufficient evidence of one or more violations of the standards of professional conduct described in this code, they may (as applicable) work with the State Director of Nursing to suspend the student’s clinical participation during the corrective action process. A record of all corrective actions will be placed in the student’s file.  


  • Level 1 Corrective Action: The Health Professions Success Center may impose corrective action up to and including a written warning, and may include a list of corrective activities that a student must complete to avoid Level 2 corrective action. 
  • Level 2 Corrective Action: The Health Professions Success Center may impose a Level 2 corrective action to resolve Level 2 concerns. In addition to any other requirements imposed, Level 2 corrective action requires the completion of a corrective action plan that will provide a student with a directed opportunity to demonstrate conduct that meets standards of professional conduct set forth in this code. Health Professions Success will determine if the response satisfactorily resolves the Level 2 concern. If the response is accepted, the Level 2 concern is closed. If the response to the corrective action plan is not acceptable, the Level 2 warning will escalate to a Level 3 concern and will be referred to the Student Conduct Board for review.   
  • Level 3 Corrective Action: Health Professions Success will refer recommendations for corrective action, up to and including temporary or permanent removal from the nursing education program or from the University, to the Student Conduct Board which will conduct a formal hearing.  

Students must respond to warning notices from Health Professions Success within 3 business days indicating either their intent to complete any required corrective action, or to appeal the warning to the Senior Manager of Clinical Experience, Health Professions, whose decision shall be considered final. Any student who fails to respond to a warning notice will be subject to the next-level remediation process. Decisions made in response to an appeal shall be considered final.


Administrative Holds

The Health Professions Success Coordinator may place a readmission hold on a student’s record when a student is withdrawn with an unresolved disposition concern.

VI. Student Rights
Students have the following rights pertaining to alleged and confirmed violations of the standards of professional conduct set forth in this code:


  • A student must be notified in writing if he or she becomes the subject of a concern.
  • A student must be provided an opportunity to respond to a concern and explain his/her behavior to a responsible WGU staff member or department.
  • The Health Professions Success Center or WGU Student Conduct administration must notify the student in writing of its decision, including, as appropriate, the level of unacceptable behavior.
  • A student may participate in any WGU course during the investigation and decision-making processes, however, may be excluded from any lab or clinical experience until a final decision allowing participation is reached.
  • Provided no other WGU standards of conduct were violated, students who are dismissed from a nursing education program due to a violation of this code may pursue another academic program at WGU. Students should recognize, however, that certain violations of this code may bar entrance to other WGU professional programs.

VII. Disciplinary Actions and Education Records
Records of concerns and corrective action will be maintained according to WGU policy regarding student disciplinary records as well as applicable state and federal laws concerning maintenance and disclosure of student information.
Associated Policies
Code of Student Conduct
Academic Progress - Nursing Programs
Records Retention Policy





Article Number: 20500, 2489


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