I have been plagiarised, twice!

Plagiarism, “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own”, but how do you cope when you are that “someone else”?

As children, we all must remember the times that our teaches would tell us “You mustn’t copy your colleague’s answers on an exam!”. In my class the teachers always knew them so they will ask the students to sit alone, at the front of the class. Fast forward in college and university you learn how to reference and the course syllabus will acknowledge that if the work is deemed to have been plagiarised the student will fail.

Then we complete our studies, join a profession and probably never expect that plagiarism even takes place. We would think that the lessons have been taught. But how do you react when you realise that your own work has been plagiarised? A bit similar to the first stage of Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle, you are in denial: No, not happening! I don’t think this is possible! You read again what someone else has written and compare what you have written a few months ago. It’s the same but you go back to your original work and you read it again, only to realise, for a second, third and fourth times that it is indeed the same and that your name was not acknowledged. No matter how many times you read over and over again, you will always realise that it is the same. You eventually come to accept. You dwell on what just happened for a day until you are ready to think about what you should do next: do you say it or do you keep quiet?

At this time you may enter a different stage. You start finding explanations for why someone else might have plagiarised your work. You think it may have been a mistake, an oversight, but rapidly you ask yourself how can someone copy and paste what you have written (and change a word to a synonym) without referencing you an oversight or a mistake? 

Then you think about the bigger picture. Who is this person that copy you? How is she/he related to you? Do you know them? Will you have to see them everyday? Do you work with them? How close is your professional relationship?

You think about morals, work ethic, personal and professional integrity. Soon, if that person is part of your professional circle, if you have seen them as a mentor or someone respectable in your field of practice, you eventually start losing the trust and respect you had for their career and professional abilities. There’s nothing they can say or do that will erase what they have just done.

You question the values of your profession. You question your career and whether, in fact, you have chosen the right one for you because at this point the values and the foundation of your education and your personal integrity do not match the values of the profession you have chosen. You ask yourself if this is really what we are teaching nurses to do? Is this the foundation of our nursing profession? Is this how we develop and advance our careers? Using anyone else intellectual property without acknowledging them is fraud so you feel you have the responsibility to speak up and you do!

During primary school, college and university we know the consequences of plagiarism. As students, plagiarism is an academic misconduct so isn’t this a professional misconduct when we have now joined a profession? But what are the consequences? When you are a nurse and you have been plagiarised by another nurse what do you do?  Do you tell your employer? Do you tell the peer-reviewed journal? Do you tell the NMC? The Nursing Code states under “Promoting Professionalism and practice” that we “should be a model of integrity and leadership for others to aspire to“. Then, we probably should ask ourselves, is plagiarism a mark of lack of integrity? Are those that plagiarised being a model of good leadership to others? And if peer-reviewed journals forbid one that has plagiarised to publish in their journal, what reassurance we have that the person has learned with their mistakes and won’t do it again in another journal?

I have been plagiarised, twice.

(c) Ismalia de Sousa, 2018