Absence Policy for MD Students on Fourth-Year Electives

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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 and elective years.

The elective year at Washington University School of Medicine encompasses a 44-week time block and requires students take a minimum of 36 weeks of elective experiences. All students have a scheduled two-week winter recess and a three-day spring break during the academic year.  During each elective, each student is expected to participate fully in all activities of the elective up until the designated end time of the elective or the start time of a holiday break. This could require 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 elective 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 absences or significant personal events. For the fourth year, the Curriculum Evaluation Committee agreed upon the following guidelines regarding the maximum number of days of excused absences (including illness) from electives: During interview season, students will be allowed to miss up to five days in a four-week rotation; any additional days off would require approval by the Associate Dean for Medical Student Education and the elective course director.  Days off in excess of three days are to be used for residency interviews.

The rest of the elective year follows the third-year absence policy: Students may miss up to five days on a twelve-week rotation, three days on a four-week rotation, and one day for a two-week rotation without making up the missed time. Students must recognize that elective teaching, learning and evaluation are dependent on the student’s presence and participation in every aspect of the elective. While students will not be graded down because of an excused absence alone, time spent away from the elective may decrease learning and impede effective evaluation. Because of these meaningful learning experiences, students are encouraged to make up missed work on rotations and should discuss this option with the course master. It is the responsibility of the student to directly contact the 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 elective experience due to planned and/or unplanned absences that exceed the maximum time may be required to utilize winter recess, spring break or free time to complete the elective.

The required fourth-year Capstone course has a separate absence policy. Please refer to the course syllabus for details.