Sick slips are really prove to be unnecessary

The Student Health Service generally tries to accommodate the needs of students, faculty and staff to the best of our ability. That is why I try to periodically explain one policy that seems to do the opposite. I know that our sick slip policy seems designed to make it difficult for students and for the staff who supervise student employees to obtain sick slips. Our reasons:

1. Sick slips are actually of very little value. Since our primary concern is to treat and prevent illness, we work on the assumption that when students say they are sick, they are sick. Quite often physical examination and tests do not add much information. So when students say they missed class or work due to illness, we usually can not provide any real verification one way or the other. The peculiar result is that the student tells the instructor or supervisor, who asks for “proof.” The student tells us, and we tell the instructor or supervisor, who accepts our statement as “proof”” From our perspective the process would be highly amusing if it were not also so wasteful.

2. It is not true that anyone too ill to attend class or work should seek medical care. Particularly with a primarily young and healthy population, there are many illnesses that are temporarily debilitating, but neither require nor benefit from medical attention.

3. Our staffing is adequate, but hardly extravagant. There are about seven hundred faculty, and at least one hundred supervisors of student employees, while we have a total staff of fifty, including five physicians and five nurse practitioners, to provide primary health care to 17,000 students. We are all generally working at or near our limits, and it definitely would impair our ability to provide the care that is needed if a significant number of our available appointments were to be taken by students who were coming for the primary purpose of getting a sick slip.

I ask for everyone’s understanding, and I ask that faculty and supervisors eliminate policies that call for routine sick slips to “verify” illness. I thank you all most sincerely.