Here’s how to get a doctor’s note for work or school. Exactly how.

When you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to worry about is figuring out the logistics of getting a doctor’s note to show to your school or employer. This article is here to help; we’re covering how to obtain a doctor’s note when you legitimately need one.

No scams or fake notes here — just the facts to help you get covered for the day(s) off from work.

In This Article:

  • When Are You Required to Present a Doctor’s Note?

  • The Process

  • Do I Need to Physically Go to a Doctor’s Office to Get a Doctor’s Note?

  • What Types of Doctors Can Provide Notes?

  • What If I Don’t Have Insurance, or I Have High Deductible Insurance?

When Are You Required to Present a Doctor’s Note?

It can take a few steps to obtain a doctor’s note, but that should not deter you, especially if your pay will be docked for missing a day or more of work.

First, check that your employer (or school — many of these guidelines apply to educational institutions as well as businesses) truly needs the doctor’s note. Yes, employers are allowed by law to require a doctor’s note, but not all employers do. Though your boss may ask without thinking about company policy.

Consult your workplace policy guide if you’d rather not talk to your boss or HR right away. Most of these policies can be found online/on your company’s Intranet.

The policies may be specific to different types of illness, especially for communicable diseases. For example, your company probably does not want a doctor’s note for a minor cold, but they may want a doctor’s note for a flu that puts you out of work for a week.

If your company’s policies are unclear, be sure to consult the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) rules about sick leave. Personal medical needs are covered under the sick leave policies.

The OPM website also covers other circumstances and applicable laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), advanced sick leave, alternative work schedules, compensatory time, and teleworking options.

The U.S. Department of Labor also provides information about pandemic flu and addresses questions regarding paid versus unpaid leave policies.

Another thing to consider would be whether the reason you need a doctor’s note is actually for a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes specific policies about employer-provided leave for those with disabilities, including major depression, the use of a wheelchair, epilepsy, diabetes, HIV infection, cancer, and others. Employees with disabilities must have the same access and ability to use sick leave as others. The scenarios provided on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website are very helpful for providing context for these types of situations.

The Process

After you know you need to obtain a doctor’s note, call the doctor to ask what it takes to get one.

If your usual doctor isn’t available, consider going to a local clinic that specializes in urgent care. All medical care provider offices will be familiar with the process of helping you obtain the note.

You can also consider the emergency room at the local hospital, but keep in mind that emergency room visits can often be costly, even with insurance — and if you’re there without a legitimate emergency, expect to wait a long time and possibly be turned away from seeing a doctor at all.

Doctor’s notes do not need to describe the reason for your visit. For employers, the doctor’s note only needs to say that you saw a medical care provider, the date, and that sick leave was recommended. Doctors may even be willing to send the document directly to your employer, especially if they can email it to your boss or Human Resources office.

Remember that an employer can call the doctor to verify that your note is legitimate, and legally they have a right to do so.

However, there are restrictions on what the doctor will divulge if your employer does follow up about a note. Doctors follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), so they absolutely must protect your privacy.

Employers can confirm that the doctor saw you and may ask more questions, but doctors will only answer what is allowed under HIPAA. Be sure to read more about your privacy rights under HIPAA if you have further questions.

Do I Need to Physically Go to a Doctor’s Office to Get a Doctor’s Note?

The short answer is yes.

Virtually every health care provider will require seeing you in person, physically, before authorizing any medical care or notes for employers. In some cases, this may include the option of the health care provider coming to you in your home, but those are rare exceptions.

While it may be difficult for you to physically go see the doctor or specialist, consider the ethical rules the health care providers must follow for their practices. If you want a legitimate doctor’s note, go see a doctor.

There are no strict rules or regulations about the time frame for when a doctor’s note must be written by the doctor in relation to your illness, because illnesses and treatments vary so much.

However, your company may have a policy about when you submit documentation to Human Resources, so be sure to look into that part.

For example, an employer may require a note submitted on the first day that you return from sick leave, or if the leave was a result of a planned treatment session, the employer may require a note submitted before the leave is granted.

Health care providers can write specific notes about when your illness or treatment started and why the sick leave should be authorized — just explain your employer’s requirements, and the doctor or specialist should be able to provide the necessary information in the note.

What Types of Doctors Can Provide Notes?

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) says that employees are entitled to sick leave when they have any type of medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment. So if you need an emergency root canal, you can get a doctor’s note for your employer.

It’s called a doctor’s note, but a doctor isn’t actually required for the note. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a note can be provided if you see any health care provider (even if they practice in another country and adhere to its laws):

  • Medical doctors
  • Physician assistants (PAs)
  • Optometrists
  • Dentists
  • Chiropractors (but they must taken an x-ray)
  • Podiatrists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Nurse midwives
  • Clinical social workers
  • Christian Science Practitioners listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA

What If I Don’t Have Insurance, or I Have High Deductible Insurance?

How to get a doctor’s note for work without insurance… If you are sick and don’t have insurance (or have high deductible insurance), but still need that doctor’s note, it’s important to keep a few things in mind…

Many consumers do not know that they can call around to different doctor’s offices, clinics, and urgent care facilities to check on prices. Yes, urgent care doctors notes exist.

Ask the office about the typical costs for a visit relating to your condition and find the cheapest option available. It takes a little bit of research, but it can absolutely be worth it, particularly if failing to get the note means you’ll be losing wages for the days missed.

Think about it this way: if you miss three days of work due to an illness, consider how much money you will lose for not working that time versus the cost of seeing a doctor.

For people with high deductible insurance plans, be sure to use your insurer’s website to search for doctors within your plan. Many insurance companies now provide extensive online resources to help you find a convenient in-network doctor or specialist.

In Summary

In this article, we’ve explained the easiest ways to get a doctor’s note and what a doctor’s note can cover. Getting a doctor’s note for your school or employer isn’t difficult, as long as you can get yourself to go see a doctor.

If this article helped you realize you won’t be able to get a doctor’s note after all, you may be on the hunt for ways to make up your work wages quickly. For ideas on how to make $100 quickly, see this article and for low stress ways to make money, see this article.

Good luck, and feel better soon! And be sure to get a doctor’s note to return to work when it comes time.