Absence Policy for MD Students on Clinical Clerkships

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The profession of medicine requires the utmost commitment of time and energy to patient care and research activities. While the development of this commitment begins in the preclinical years, it is further practiced and developed during the clinical clerkship.

The clinical clerkship year at Washington University School of Medicine comprises 48 weeks of required core clinical experiences. All students on the clinical clerkships have a scheduled 2-week winter recess break, a 3-day spring break and a 2-week break between the end of the third-year clinical clerkships and the start of fourth-year elective rotations (or free time prior to graduation for MSTP students). During every clinical clerkship, each student is expected to participate fully in all activities of the clerkship up until the designated end time of the clerkship or the start time of a holiday break. This regularly requires participation beyond formal weekday hours to include evening and nighttime call and clinical responsibilities on weekends.

If a student is ill or has a personal emergency, (s)he should notify the clerkship course master’s office and the resident supervising his/her clinical team the morning of the absence. If the absence extends beyond two consecutive days, the student should also notify the Office of Student Affairs.

It is recognized that a student may, on a very occasional basis, desire to be excused from clinical activities for professional or significant personal events. For the third year, the Curriculum Evaluation Committee agreed upon the following guidelines regarding the maximum number of days of excused absences (including illness) from clerkships: Students may miss up to 5 days on a 12-week clerkship, 3 days on a 4- or 6-week clerkship, and 1 day for a 2-week clerkship without making up the missed time. Students must recognize that clerkship teaching, learning and evaluation are dependent on the student’s presence and participation in every aspect of the clerkship. While students will not be graded down only because of an excused absence, time spent away from the clerkship may decrease learning and impede effective evaluation; students are encouraged to make up missed work on rotations in which this can result in meaningful learning and should discuss this option with the clerkship director. It is the responsibility of the student to directly contact the clinical clerkship course director in writing (by letter or e-mail) to obtain permission for any planned absences well in advance of the planned absence.

At the discretion of the course director, any student who misses portions of the clinical clerkship experiences due to planned and/or unplanned absences that exceed the maximum time may be required to utilize winter recess, spring break or free time at the end of the third year clinical clerkships to complete the 48 weeks of mandatory clinical clerkships.