Sick Notes (a.k.a. Medical Notes)

The Facts about Sick Notes

Instructors, or Academic Heads can modify or alter course requirements (e.g., midterms, assignments) for special reasons, such as illness, or personal issues. They may request a “sick note” (aka “medical note”) to help them make their decisions; however the final decision about whether a modification of course requirements is required or will be permitted, rests with the instructor, regardless of what may be stated on any medical note.

The physicians at Health and Counselling Services or anywhere else do not have the authority to exempt students from exams, assignments, etc. Whether an exemption occurs is up to the instructor and should be based upon a conversation between the instructor and the student seeking a change to course requirements. Where a requested change to course requirements relates to the impact of a permanent disability, as opposed to routine illness, students are required to work with the Centre for Students with Disabilities to address their needs.

PLEASE NOTE: Fraser International College's policy states that you do not need a sick note from a doctor for minor, short term illnesses (like a cold or flu) that prevent you from attending class or writing an exam.   

Here are some suggestions:

If your instructor has not outlined a process to follow and you find yourself unable to meet your course commitments due to something beyond your control you should do the following:

  1. Contact your instructor immediately using the contact information they provided to you at start of the course.  If you can not find this, contact the academic department and request a message get to the instructor and that they respond.

  2. Provide the instructor the reasons for your absence (e.g., routine illness or chronic illness) and expected return date.  Find out if any documentation (i.e., medical note) is required at this point.

  3. Follow up with your instructor when you are able to return to class by making an appointment with your instructor and discussing options to make up missed work.

If you have a family doctor it is always good to see them for your assessment. If you do not have a local family doctor or cannot get in to see them, come to HCS.  While seeing your doctor do not forget to ask for a note if you will be missing commitments.

If you believe that you are too ill to attend lectures/labs or to complete your academic requirements (e.g., assignments, exams) and that you will require a medical note, it is required that you see a physician on the day/s that you are ill.  HCS physicians will write notes based on their medical findings and professional assessments on the day of the visit.  Absolutely NO medical notes will be written by an HCS physician for a past illness if you were not assessed at HCS for that illness or occurrence.  Coming into HCS to see a doctor after the fact when you are not currently ill delays sick people from getting treated.

SFU may change overall policies related to sick notes during an official pandemic situation (such as the H1N1 pandemic of 2009). In the event of a pandemic, a campus-wide notification will detail any temporary change in practice.

If a medical note is appropriate, please bring a Certificate of Illness (Health Care Provider Statement) to your physician for completion, especially if it is required for mid terms, term papers and final exams. The completed note should state the limitations caused by your sickness (e.g., requires bed rest, will not be able to sit for extended periods, cannot concentrate, etc). 

Medical notes can be issued (when appropriate) by medical personnel at private clinics, walk-in clinics, emergency rooms, etc., but please note a charge may be incurred for this service. If you were treated outside SFU Health and Counselling Services please get a note from the institution where you were seen.  HCS physicians cannot issue a medical note if you were not assessed during your illness by an HCS physician.

HCS staff cannot validate notes from external clinics.  If your instructor is not satisfied with the sick note you have provided, you need to return to your treating physician.  Again, coming into HCS to see a doctor when there is no MEDICAL reason delays sick people from getting treated.

Due to the high volume of drop-in patients we encourage you to arrive as EARLY as possible on the day that you are ill and seeking a medical note. No medical notes will be issued once the clinic is CLOSED for the day or if you were not seen on the day that documentation was required.

Related links:

Health and Counselling Services – Make an Appointment
Make an appointment with a physician at the Burnaby or Vancouver campus. This website provides contact information for each HCS clinic along with clinic hours of operation.

Medical Services Plan of B.C.(BC MSP)
BC MSP is required for all SFU students. It provides basic health insurance and covers the costs associated with visiting a physician and the hospital. The website above provides details regarding coverage and the application process.

International Services for Students - Health Insurance
Welcome to Canada and SFU! Health insurance for international students is available in many forms. This page has general information, health insurance options, as well as costs and the various applications processes.

Advising Services – Academic Difficulty
If you are having difficulty with your courses at SFU, you should make an appointment with an academic advisor for guidance. This website will give you an overview of the different academic standings and how they affect you, as well as the policies associated with academic difficulty.

Withdrawals under Extenuating Circumstances
If a medical condition will prevent you from completing a course you might consider applying for a withdrawal with extenuating circumstances. Learn more at the website above. 

Centre for Students with Disabilities
Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities act as liaisons between students and faculty in the implementation of disability related services and accommodations. Find out more about what services they offer, hours and contact information at the website above.