READINESS TO RETURN POLICY

The UF COM wants to ensure that any student who has had a leave of absence for medical reasons or an extended leave of absence for educational or disciplinary reasons is evaluated for their readiness to return to registration. Exceptions to this policy include any student who takes an educational leave of absence of 1 year or less and MD-PhD students who already have a curriculum in place for their return. All other students will be required to provide documentation of their readiness to return or will be required to have an evaluation from a 3rd party that specifically addresses their ability to return successfully to the medical school curriculum. The most common scenarios, but not all, in which a student would be required to provide documentation for their readiness to return include:

  1. A situation in which a student is unable to perform essential functions of a medical student because of a physical illness. (short term or long term)
  2. A situation in which a student is unable to perform essential functions of a medical student because of a mental health diagnosis.
  3. A situation in which a student is unable to perform essential functions of a medical student because of addiction.
  4. A situation in which a student may pose a direct threat of harm to self or others due to a physical or psychological condition.
  5. A situation in which a student’s ability to perform essential functions may be impaired by the duration of time they spent away from the medical school curriculum. (e.g.-completing a 2 year MBA or MPH program or taking 3 years to do a research project)

For situations 1-4, a fitness for duty evaluation will be required. This may come in the form of a complete evaluation of the student’s stressors, abilities, and accommodation requirements (e.g., after a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, a physical injury that impacted cognitive function). It may also be in the form of a note from the treating physician stating the physical limitations of the student and indicating when the student may be able to return to full function (e.g., after a broken leg, surgery, or cancer treatment). The decision for which type of evaluation will be required will be made by the Academic Status Committee, which has oversight of the student’s entire academic history.

The following is a thorough, but not exhaustive, summary of possible scenarios that may occur.

MEDICAL LEAVE OF ABSENCE

A. Non-cognitive or physical impairment (Situation #1 above)
     a. Return to registration approvals and documentation will be required for students
          who have both short term and long term absences.
     b. Documentation should describe the following:
                i. When the student is able to return to registration
               ii. Whether there are limitations to their return
                         1. The student will have to apply through the DRC for
                              accommodations if they are recommended by their treating
                              physician, and those accommodations will be determined to be
                              appropriate, or not, based on the written technical standards of the
                              COM
               iii. The need for on-going appointments/supports and the duration of those
    c. In some cases, a fitness for duty evaluation will be required that can also assess the
        student’s medical situation in the context of the stressors of the medical school
        curriculum. Please refer to the Medical Student Fitness for Duty Policy.
               i. This may be due to time away from the curriculum or other concerns
                  including, but not limited to, previous academic difficulties.
              ii. This determination will be made by the Academic Status Committee
             iii. If the ASC does not determine a FFD evaluation is necessary, then (b)
                  applies
    B. Cognitive Impairment (Situation #2,3,4)
         a. Mental Health Diagnosis
              i. Return to registration approvals and documentation of appropriate treatment
                 will be required for any student who has taken a short-term medical leave
                 of absence (less than 6 weeks) and who has not had prior academic or
                 professionalism concerns.
             ii. Documentation from the treating physician should describe the following:
                   1. When the student is able to return to registration
                   2. Whether there are limitations to their return
                        a. If yes, then the student will have to apply through the DRC
                           for accommodations if they are recommended by theirtreating physician. Those accommodations will be
                           determined to be appropriate, or not, based on the written technical standards of the COM. 
                   3. The need for on-going appointments/supports and the duration of
                      those
             iii. Return to registration for a student who has taken a leave of absence that
                  exceeds 6 weeks may require a fitness for duty evaluation (Please refer to
                  the Medical Student Fitness for Duty Policy). The need for this evaluation
                  will be determined by the Academic Status Committee (ASC).
                      1. Options for a fitness for duty evaluation include
                            a. Physician Resource Network (PRN)
                            b. Private Forensic Psychologist or Psychiatrist who provides
                               fitness for duty evaluations
                      2. If a FFD evaluation is deemed unnecessary, then (ii) would apply
             iv. Any student who takes repeated short or long-term absences for any
                 cognitive impairment will require a fitness for duty evaluation after the
                 second leave in order to return to registration
         b. Addiction
               i. Any student who is suspected of having a drug or alcohol addiction will be
                  given the option of self-referring to PRN. If the student refuses to self-refer,
                  he/she will be referred by the COM PRN liaison.
              ii. In addition, if the student is considered to be impaired, they will be
                  immediately removed from any patient interaction until after their PRN
                  assessment is completed.
             iii. Any student who is deemed by PRN to require a contract and monitoring
                  will be required to adhere to the recommendations of PRN prior to their
                  return to registration.
              iv. Any student who is not compliant with their monitoring contract will be
                  subject to dismissal from the COM.

EDUCATIONAL LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Any student who is on an education leave of absence that exceeds 1 year will be required to participate in a return to registration program in order to prepare them for their return to the medical school curriculum. This re-orientation may take the form of a formal intensive course, the development of an individualized learning plan followed by an assessment, or a videotaped standardized patient encounter. The return plan will be dependent upon the student’s prior academic history, the phase in which they will return, and the duration of time away from the medical curriculum. The Academic Status Committee will determine what type of re-entry program is indicated.

Disclaimer: The images on this page were taken prior to the national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing.