Sept. 6, 2018

Students no longer required to present a medical note

Change reduces burden on health-care system; alternatives now available

In June 2018, following two and a half years of community consultation, the University of Calgary approved regulations stating that students are no longer required to present a medical note in any circumstance. Students who need to verify their reason for absence can obtain a medical note if they choose, but they can also take a statutory declaration with one of the 23 Commissioners for Oaths now available on campus.

Requiring medical notes to explain an absence from an examination, the need for further time on an assignment or other special requests has been a long-standing practice in post-secondary education worldwide. However, medical associations across Canada have been lobbying against this practice because it represents an administrative burden on doctors who could be using that time for direct patient care. Obtaining medical notes can also put additional strain on students who need to travel to a clinic when they could be recovering at home rather than spreading their illness to others in a public space.

Dr. Jon Meddings, dean of the Cumming School of Medicine, was a strong advocate of this change. “Our health-care system is already overburdened,” he says. “Having physicians see a person solely for the purpose of a note is not a good thing. It prevents a person more in need from accessing our system.”

In some cases, providing a medical note is a purely administrative task that does not require medical care. Debbie Bruckner, senior director of student wellness access and support, highlights that “when unwell students are unable to get an immediate appointment to see a doctor, they often come in to get a medical note after the fact. A statutory declaration would attest to their condition without further burdening clinics.”

The University of Calgary is now one of only a handful of universities in Canada that use self-declaration forms or statutory declarations as alternatives to medical notes. This change is part of UCalgary’s ongoing focus on the well-being of students and providing an excellent university experience. “This is a major step forward,” says Dr. Susan Barker, vice-provost (student experience). “It is beneficial to all students as well as health providers as it will help ensure better access to health professionals during peak demand times such as final examination period.”

A new section of the university calendar has been added to help clarify this change in regulations.  

Details regarding statutory declarations — including the declaration form, FAQs for studentsFAQ for faculty and staff, and the campus locations where they can be completed — are available on the UCalgary website.