“It would be tantamount to gross negligence to allow these nurses to practise,” said pharmacist, ethicist and medical law practitioner Shafrudeen Amod.
On May 10, staff nurses with a two-year qualification and employed at a clinic or hospital, wrote first- or second-year bridging course exams. Passing the exams qualifies them as better-trained “registered nurses” who earn more and have more responsibilities.
The High Court in Pretoria, which has invalidated the exams, heard that many nurses saw the question paper before they wrote the exam, and some had the answers memo, which they could have taken with them into the exams.
The implications are far-reaching.
Ethicist and qualified doctor Aimes Dhai, director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, said the suggestion in the court judgment that thousands of candidates cheated “is of grave concern”.
“Especially when considering that the Florence Nightingale Pledge, on which the nurses’ oath is based, starts by saying that nurses will practise their profession faithfully and abstain from mischievous practices.”
She said the possibility that thousands of qualified nurses improved their qualifications by cheating in exams “would definitely create anxiety among patients”.
Amod said the cheating nurses should be struck off the roll.
“Ethical accountability must be demanded of the SA Nursing Council as to how the answer memo was leaked and, more important, of the nurses who found it ‘normal’ to cheat. A collective degree of responsibility must be taken.”
The SA Nursing Council did not respond to requests for comment.