PA Students' Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Cheating and Academic Integrity

Dereczyk, Amy MS, PA-C, Greg Bozimowski, Linda Thiel, and Rose Higgins


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine physician assistant (PA) student’s attitude towards academic integrity. Three integrity factors were assessed: academic environment, cheating behaviors, and perceived seriousness of specific cheating behaviors.

Methods:   After receiving local IRB approval, an anonymous online survey was disseminated to PA students at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit, Michigan. 94 potential participants were contacted through the university’s e-mail account. Respondents were directed to an online site to complete the academic integrity survey.  This descriptive study was part of a larger study that was administered to students in the whole college including the physician assistant department.

Results:  The response rate was 52% (n = 49). The majority of respondents (86%) indicated “never” seeing another student cheat during an exam. Personal opinions of cheating frequency on campus during a test or exam were reported as “never” (47%) or “very seldom” (42%) occurring. All (100%) respondents reported “never” to personally turning in work done by another and turning in paper from a paper mill. All participants (100%) reported “never” to not taking vital signs and reporting approximates. Some (8%) reported getting test questions and answers from another. Respondents’ perception of the seriousness of cheating behaviors varied. Working with others when asked to do individual work was considered “not cheating” by 14% of respondents; 35% indicated not taking vital signs and reporting approximates was less serious than cheating.

Conclusions:  PA students have a self reported high level of integrity in general course assignments, tests and exams, and clinical courses. This level of perceived academic integrity may be a result of an honor agreement acknowledged by PA students throughout the curriculum that reinforces what is expected of them.