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Rationale

Active participation by medical students in learning opportunities is critical to their formation, education, and training. Sustained and deep engagement, which requires regular and punctual attendance, is expected of all students in all of their classes (lectures, laboratories, seminars, tutorials, small groups and clinical sessions).  Students who neglect their academic responsibilities may be excluded from final examinations and may be found in breach of the MD Program’s Breach of Professionalism policy.

The College of Medicine recognizes that medical students are adult learners and entitled to the privileges and responsibilities that come with such status. That being said, for many components of the program, the College of Medicine relies heavily upon faculty with clinical obligations, their patients and other patient volunteers.  Absenteeism and lack of punctuality by students place an unwelcome strain on the goodwill of all concerned.  Often a significant degree of accommodation has occurred to make these educational experiences possible.  Replicating these experiences to accommodate student absences is extremely difficult.  Acceptance of responsibility for attendance and participation in patient care is part of the student’s professional education and responsibility.  Appropriate attendance and punctuality are indicative of the student’s understanding of, and adherence to, expectations of professional behaviour.

It has been the College’s experience that, for some students, chronic non-attendance often ends up in academic and/or professional difficulty.  Students also end up feeling disengaged and separated from their class cohort, which can further affect academic success because of a lack of peer support. The College reserves the right to mandate attendance by those students who are in academic or professional difficulty. Such circumstances would be clearly documented and provided in writing to the student.

Mandatory and Non-Mandatory

As general guidance, the program classifies educational sessions into two broad categories: mandatory and non-mandatory.

  1. 1.       Mandatory

Educational sessions that are critical to the MD program and the student’s progress are deemed to be mandatory.  If missed, mandatory sessions can put the student at a disadvantage within the program and may affect program and national exam results. Many educational sessions have an assessment component within them.  Assessment may range from an in-session assignment to written or oral exam/quiz to OSCEs to assessment of clinical skills.  Absences from sessions that include assessment are more difficult to accommodate, both because of the impact on the comparability (i.e., fairness) of assessment among students and because of the need to either reschedule the session or forego the opportunity for assessment (and possibly accepting a grade of zero).

  1. 2.       Non-Mandatory

Non-mandatory sessions are valuable important components within the curriculum, but are such that absences from them can be relatively easily made up with extra effort on the student’s part (i.e. self-directed learning through a lecture or obtaining lecture notes from a colleague).  Note that non-mandatory does not mean that the material taught in it will not be assessed.

The College of Medicine has determined the following designations regarding attendance throughout the MD program:

Pre-Clerkship

Mandatory

Non-Mandatory

  • Orientation
  • Small group sessions
    • Tutorials, cases, labs, clinical skills*
    • Scheduled assessments (i.e. written and oral exams, presentations, in-class assignments, OSCEs and any other session where student performance is assessed or submissions of work is expected)

*Note that Mandatory sessions are typically scheduled well in advance.  Clinical Skills sessions, particularly DSPE sessions, are an exception.  To accommodate the clinical schedules of physician preceptors, these sessions may be added or rescheduled up to 48 h in advance with email notification to the student.  Therefore students should anticipate and plan for this potential by requesting a planned absence if one is required.  If a planned absence has been approved and a mandatory session has been moved to that day, the student will not be penalized professionally or academically.

  • Lectures or large group sessions/seminars*

* unless otherwise specified by the course director and/or the UGME office (e.g. in-class quizzes or assignment). Each course syllabus will provide specific details about the role and timing of in-class assessments.

 

These sessions are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for your academic success, but attendance will not be tracked.

 

 

  • All other sessions are left to the discretion of the Course Director and/or the UGME office.  It must be assumed that sessions not specifically listed are mandatory unless otherwise indicated.

NOTE:  Regardless of the nature of the session (mandatory or non-mandatory), students are responsible for knowing the content as listed in the curricular/course objectives.  The College of Medicine reserves the right to require students to make up missed time, regardless of the nature of the session, reason for the absence, or whether or not the absence was approved appropriately, to ensure the academic success of students.

Failure to abide by these regulations without appropriate prior approval or notice after the fact for emergent absences will be deemed as a breach of professionalism as outlined in M.D. Program, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan Breach of Professionalism Policy & Procedures.  A breach of professionalism also occurs if a student disregards the decision of the College of Medicine or other authority in relation to the absences.

Types of Absences

Introduction

It is recognized that there may be circumstances that merit absence from educational activities.  In determining these circumstances, the following principles will be considered and respected:

  1. Equity and transparency within the limits of confidentiality.
  2. The ability to fulfill academic responsibilities (those of the student and those of others involved in the educational process).
  3. The well-being of the student, including recognition of and respect for the student’s abilities and limitations
  4. The integrity of all aspects of the M.D. program and those involved in the program (i.e. students, faculty, staff, allied health professionals, etc.).

Notation of all absence requests will be made on the student’s file to track absences, which will inform future absence requests.

In all cases, students in academic difficulty may be denied planned absence requests if it is felt that the absence(s) may further affect their academic performance.

Planned Absences (Including from Mandatory Sessions)

Planned absences are intended to allow students to request time away from mandatory or non-mandatory sessions for important professional or personal reasons.

Limitations on planned absences:
Planned absences may not be requested and will not be approved for Final examination periods (including OSCEs).  Absences for final examinations will only be considered for reasons of illness or personal/family emergencies.  Please see Deferral Policy.

Accommodating absences that involve a deferral of a quiz, mid-term or end-of-module exam is particularly challenging to arrange; therefore students will be limited to maximum one absence per academic year involving a deferral of a quiz, mid-term or end-of-module exam.  Any absence requests beyond one that involves such a deferral will be considered in exceptional circumstances only.  Please see Deferral Policy.

Types of Planned Absences:

  • Observance of a religious/faith holiday
  • Health care appointment which cannot be scheduled outside of academic hours
  • Attendance at a funeral or memorial service
  • Presentation at an academic conference
  • Attendance at an academic conference
  • Invited and active participation in organized athletics or other competition
  • Active participation in a major personal celebration or event (i.e. wedding, baptism, etc.)
  • Attendance at a College of Medicine committee meeting
  • Appointment with another College of Medicine or University office/leader
  • Important professional leadership activities associated with University of SK, College of Medicine and groups affiliated with the College of Medicine

Other planned and/or foreseeable absences

Process for Applying for Planned Absences:

  • Students are advised that they should avoid booking travel until their request is fully approved.  Students are responsible for any costs incurred if booked travel must be cancelled.
  • The student must submit a request using the appropriate form directly (email or in person) to the UGME (site specific) Administrative Coordinator (In Saskatoon this will be the Year Administrative Coordinator and in Regina the Education Consultant, Year 2).  This should be done as soon as the student becomes aware of the need for an absence.  The guideline is a minimum of 4 weeks in advance of the planned absence. 
  • As part of the request, supporting documentation may be required.  If the supporting documentation is confidential in nature (i.e. medical, or sensitive family matters), documentation can be submitted to the Student Affairs Office at the student’s site.  The UGME office will consult with Student Affairs as part of their consideration, without breaching confidentiality.
  • The College of Medicine will consider the request and provide a decision in a timely manner.  The guideline is within 2 weeks of the request or in advance of the absence, whichever is longer.  Note: each site will have a slightly different approval process.  This process may include the relevant module or course personnel.
  • The Administrative Coordinator will either deny the request, approve the request, or conditionally approve the request.
  • Conditional approvals may occur in the setting of a mandatory session, in which the Module or Course Director must be consulted to determine if/how an alternate learning experience or assessment can be provided.  This may include the student requesting a deferral of an assessment (see Deferral Policy). In limited situations, this may include the Administrative Coordinator switching students between groups, with the agreement of both students.
  • In the event of a conditional approval, the Administrative Coordinator and/or student will consult with the relevant Preceptor/Module or Course Director to determine if the requested absence can be accommodated.
  • The Administrative Coordinator will advise the relevant Module or Course Director and/or Administrative staff member of an approved planned absence.
  • In the event that a mandatory learning activity is scheduled for the student after a planned absence has been approved, the student will not be penalized professionally or by a loss of academic marks. However, typically a learning session will not be rescheduled for the student; marks for missed assessments will be addressed through re-weighting or alternate assessment if required as determined by the Module/ Course Director.

Appeals of Planned Absence Request Decisions:

  • Relevant Administrative staff (Year Administrative Coordinator or Regina Education Consultant) will approve or deny planned absence requests based on this policy.
  • If a student disagrees with Administrative decisions, the student may appeal the decision to the appropriate Year Chair or designate, by providing, in writing (email acceptable) the reasons why the student is appealing the decision.  The decision of the Year Chair shall be final. The Student may seek guidance from the Office of Student Affairs in requesting such an appeal.

Guiding Principles/Considerations for Planned Absences: (See Application for Leave – Appendix A)

  • Reason for the absence
  • The type and number of session(s) that will be affected, including, type and weight of assessment, and importance to the course/program
  • The student’s academic performance to date
  • The student’s professional performance to date
  • The number of absences to date and/or scheduled/planned
  • Note that the UGME program will endeavour to adapt the schedule to accommodate SMSS-identified events of importance to the medical student community

Typical Outcomes in the Case of a Request for a Planned Absence:
Observance of a religious/faith holiday

  • Requests will generally be approved, save for extraordinary extenuating circumstances
  • The College of Medicine must provide a compelling reason if not approved.
  • The College of Medicine will pursue alternative arrangements to enable the student to make up any missed assessments and/or other critically mandatory sessions due to a religious or faith holiday.

Health care appointment

  • Requests for an absence from a non-mandatory session will generally be approved
  • Requests for an absence from a mandatory session will be dealt with on an a case-by-case basis
  • Students are requested to make every effort to schedule health care appointments at a time that does not require an absence from educational sessions. 

Attendance at a funeral or memorial service

  • Requests will generally be approved, save for extraordinary extenuating circumstances
  • The College of Medicine will pursue alternative arrangements to enable the student to make up any missed assessments and/or other critically mandatory sessions due to a funeral or memorial service.

Attendance at academic conferences

  • Requests for an absence will generally be granted to a maximum of 3 days per academic year
  • Request for absences more than the allowable amount will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.  Consideration will be given to those who are presenting or are involved in an administrative capacity or organization meetings at a conference
  • Requests for an absence from mandatory sessions will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.   Specific considerations include the relative weight of the assessment to be missed, logistics of rescheduling the assessment, impact of foregoing the assessment (i.e., lost opportunity for feedback, a grade of zero, etc.) and student academic performance

Students are required to submit the conference program and, if applicable, confirmation of acceptance of their paper/poster as part of their initial request.

Invited and active participation in an organized athletics or other competition, at the varsity level or equivalent

  • Requests for an absence from a non-mandatory session will generally be approved
  • Requests for an absence from a mandatory session will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  Specific considerations include the relative weight of the assessment to be missed, logistics of rescheduling the assessment, impact of foregoing the assessment (i.e., lost opportunity for feedback, a grade of zero, etc.) and student performance.
  • Students are required to submit documentation of their official invitation to participate as part of the initial request

Active participation in a major personal celebration or event (i.e. wedding, baptism, etc.)

  • Requests for an absence from non-mandatory sessions will generally be approved to a maximum of 3 days per academic year.
  • Requests for an absence from mandatory sessions will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Specific considerations include the relative weight of the assessment to be missed, logistics of rescheduling the assessment, impact of foregoing the assessment (i.e., lost opportunity for feedback, a grade of zero, etc.) and student academic performance
  • Students are required to provide a description of the event and their participation in the event as part of their initial request

Attendance at a College of Medicine committee meeting

  • Requests for an absence from a non-mandatory session will generally be approved
  • Requests for an absence from a mandatory session will not be approved other than in exceptional circumstances for meetings in which the student member’s participation is essential and the meeting cannot be scheduled at another time;  confirmation from the Chair will be required

Appointment with another College of Medicine or University leader

  • Requests for an absence from a non-mandatory session will generally be approved
  • Requests for an absence from an mandatory session will not be approved other than in exceptional circumstances for an appointment in which the student member’s participation is essential and the appointment cannot be scheduled at another time; confirmation from the Leader will be required
  • Students are requested to schedule these appointments outside of curriculum time to the greatest extent possible
  • College leaders are asked to be cognizant of the students’ academic program when requesting appointments

Vacation 

  • Vacation requests during pre-clerkship will not be approved as planned absences.

Other PLANNED absences

  • Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Note that the UGME program will endeavour to adapt the schedule to accommodate SMSS-identified events of importance to the medical student community

Flex Days

Flex days are intended to allow students, as adult learners, the option of taking a planned absence without the need to provide a reason or documentation in support of that absence. 

Flex days may be used for absences from non-mandatory sessions and some specific types of mandatory sessions. 

Limitations on Flex Days:
A student may request a maximum of 3 Flex Days per academic year.

Flex days may not be requested and will not be approved for the following:

  • Clinical Skills sessions
  • iPBL sessions
  • quizzes, mid-term or end-of-module exams
  • Final exams (including OSCEs)

Flex days may be requested and will be considered for the following:

  • small group case-based seminars or learning sessions (such as small groups in Foundations or Clinical Integration courses)*
  • *there may be exceptions which will be identified to students as not eligible for Flex Days

Process for Applying for Flex Day Absences:

  • Students are advised that they should avoid booking travel until their request is fully approved.  Students are responsible for any costs incurred if booked travel must be cancelled.
  • The student must submit a request to the UGME (site specific) Year Administrative Coordinator as soon as the student becomes aware of the need for an absence, at a minimum 1 week in advance of the planned absence.  Flex Days will not be retroactively approved.
  • The College of Medicine will consider the request and provide a decision in a timely manner, ideally by 3 days prior to the requested absence. Note: each site will have a slightly different approval process.  This process may include the relevant module or course personnel.
  • The Administrative Coordinator will either deny the request, approve the request, or conditionally approve the request.
  • Conditional approvals may occur in the setting of a mandatory session, in which the Module or Course Director must be consulted to determine if/how an alternate learning experience or assessment can be provided. In the event of a conditional approval, the Administrative Coordinator and/or student will consult with the relevant Preceptor/Module or Course Director to determine if the requested absence can be accommodated.
  • The Administrative Coordinator will advise the relevant Module or Course Director and/or Administrative staff member of an approved Flex Day absence.  
  • In the event that a mandatory learning activity is scheduled for the student after a Flex Day absence has been approved, the student will not be penalized professionally or by a loss of academic marks. However, typically a learning session will not be rescheduled for the student; marks for missed assessments will be addressed through re-weighting or alternate assessment if required as determined by the Module/ Course Director.
  • If an assessment (such as an in-class or out-of class assignment) occurs on a day that a Flex Day has been approved, the student is still responsible for completing the assignment by or before the stipulated due date, and reviewing the content missed.  For assessments that cannot be done without attendance, a student should anticipate receiving a potential zero on that assessment.
  • Flex Days are on a first-come, first-serve basis and requests will be declined if > 20% of a small group or > 20% of the class for a large group session would be away on Flex Days on a given day.

Appeals of Flex Day Request Decisions:

  • Relevant Administrative staff (site-specific Year Administrative Coordinators) will approve or deny planned absence requests based on this policy
If a student disagrees with the Administrative decision, the student may appeal that decision to the appropriate Year Chair or designate, by providing, in writing (email acceptable) the reasons why the student is appealing the decision.  The decision of the Year Chair shall be final for appeals of Flex Day decisions. The Student may seek guidance from the Office of Student Affairs in requesting such an appeal.

Unplanned Absences

Types of Unplanned Absences:

  • Illness and/or injury
  • Serious situation with a family member or other loved one
  • Personal crisis
  • Transportation problems
  • Other reasons

Process for notification for Unplanned Absences:

  • In all cases, the students should ensure the personal well-being and immediate safety of themselves and others affected within the situation.
  • Student must notify the UGME office (site specific) as soon as the student is able to do so after attending to the emergent needs/issues. 
  • Medical or other documentation of the need for the absence may be required. The UGME office will work with the student to determine if any other documentation is required.  If the supporting documentation is confidential in nature (i.e. medical, or sensitive family matters), documentation can be submitted to the Student Affairs Office at the student’s educational site.
  • The UGME office will work with the student to reschedule any mandatory assessed sessions that may have been missed due to the unplanned absence as appropriate.

Guiding Principles/Considerations for Unplanned Absences:

  • Acknowledgement that unforeseen and emergent circumstances arise and that the student has the right to determine how best to deal with such circumstances, including being absent from educational sessions
  • Students must notify a staff or faculty member within the College of Medicine, or the Office of Student Affairs within a reasonable timeframe surrounding the unplanned absence.  Failure to notify is unacceptable and the College may not be obligated to provide make-up sessions or assessments.
  • Acknowledgement and respect of the supportive and compassionate environment that the College endeavours to provide to all individuals
  • Understanding that any absence may have consequences and create added responsibility as it relates to the student’s medical education
  • Given that all courses will continue during an absence, the volume of material and the number of clinical skills sessions that are missed must be considered in the plans for return to classes after absence.  If a student misses more than 3 weeks of school, the Year Chair will work with the Assistant Dean Academics and Student Affairs/ Associate Dean to determine the appropriate course of action, which may include recommendation of withdrawal from the current academic year and re-entry into the following academic year.  For unplanned absences shorter than 3 weeks, the Year Chair in consultation with the Assistant Deans Academic and Student Affairs/ Associate Dean will determine the appropriate course of action.  Student Affairs representatives will assist with planning for either a withdrawal or return to program after an extended absence.

Illness and/or injury

  • Once able, the student should contact the UGME office and indicate the absence was due to illness or injury
  • Additional documentation may be required depending on the nature of the missed session(s), scheduled assessment (if any), the duration of the absence and history of past absences
  • Arrangements will be made to ensure the student is able to make up missed sessions and/or assessments at a later date which may include alternative formats

Serious situation involving a family member or other loved one

  • Once able, the student must contact the site specific UGME or Student Affairs office and indicate the absence was due to a personal problem affecting a family member and/or loved one
  • Additional documentation may be required depending on the nature of the missed session(s), scheduled assessment (if any), the duration of the absence and history of past absences
  • Arrangements will be made to ensure the student is able to make up missed sessions and/or assessments at a later date which may include alternative formats

Personal crisis

  • Once able, the student must contact the site specific Student Affairs office and indicate the absence is due to a personal crisis
  • Student Affairs will work with the student and the UGME office to determine the appropriate course of action
  • Arrangements will be made to ensure the student is able to make up missed sessions and/or assessments at a later date which may include alternative formats

Transportation problems

  • The student must contact the UGME office as soon as possible once it is apparent that an absence is likely to result from the delay.
  • Supporting information and documentation must be provided, which includes the nature of or reason for the travel delay
  • When possible, arrangements will be made to ensure the student is able to make up missed sessions and/or assessments at a later date which may include alternative formats
  • Arrangements and accommodations will NOT be made for absences that result in the poor planning on the part of the student

Other reasons

  • Other unplanned absences will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis

Total Absences

Guiding Principles:

  • Significant absences may impact a student’s learning, and the program reserves the right to limit absences in order to best support learning.
  • Processing absence requests requires significant administrative resources and reasonable limits are required in order to allow Administrative Coordinators to attend to other important responsibilities.

Process:

  • All absences will be tracked by the relevant UGME Administrative staff. 
  • A student will be allowed a maximum of 5 approved absences (combined Planned and Flex Day absences) per academic year. Exceptions may be made to the 5 maximum days for planned absences due to leadership activities for students in good academic standing.
Students who have unplanned absences due to illness or personal circumstances and who subsequently apply for Planned or Flex Day absences which would result in an excess of 5 total absences per year, may have Planned or Flex Day absences declined.  This will depend on academic performance, the relative importance of the activity for which the student is requesting an absence, and potential impact of the individual and cumulative absences on learning and assessment. The Year Chair will be consulted on this decision.