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. We’ve got you covered: Here’s how to obtain a doctor’s note when you legitimately need one.

No scams or fake notes here — just the facts.

In This Article:

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

  • The Process

  • Do I Need to Physically Visit 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 don’t let that 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. Though employers are allowed by law to require a doctor’s note, not all of them do.

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.

Your employer’s doctor’s note policies may be specific to various types of illness, especially for communicable diseases. For example, your company might not want a doctor’s note for a minor cold, but they may want one for a flu that could put you out of work for a week. If that’s the case, your employer may also require a doctor’s note for you to return to work after sick leave.

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.

You might also consider whether you might actually be dealing with a disability, not an illness.. If so, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes specific policies about employer-provided leave for those with disabilities, which include major depression, the use of a wheelchair, epilepsy, diabetes, HIV infection, cancer, and others. Employees with disabilities must have the same access to and ability to use sick leave as other employees. The scenarios provided on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website are help provide context for these types of situations.

The Process

Once you know you need to obtain a doctor’s note, it’s time to call your physician and 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 may also consider an emergency room at a local hospital, but keep in mind that emergency room visits are often costly, even with insurance — and if you’re there without a legitimate emergency, expect to wait a long time and possibly be turned away without 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 the date, that you saw a medical care provider, and that sick leave was recommended. Doctors may even be willing to send the document directly to your employer, especially if they can do so via email.

There are no strict rules or regulations on the timeliness of a doctor’s note, because illnesses and treatments vary so much. However, check your company’s policy for rules on when to submit a doctor’s to HR in relation to your sick leave. For example, an employer may require that you submit a note submitted on your first day back from sick leave, or if the leave was a result of a planned treatment session, the employer may require a note before granting leave.

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.

Remember that an employer have the legal right to call the doctor to verify that your note is legitimate.However, there are restrictions on what the doctor can divulge if your employer does follow up about a note. Doctors follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires that they protect your privacy.

Employers can confirm that the doctor saw you and may ask more questions, but doctors can 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 Visit a Doctor’s Office to Get a Doctor’s Note?

The short answer: yes.

Virtually every health care provider will require seeing you in person before authorizing any medical care or notes for employers. In some cases, a health care provider can make a house call, but these are rare exceptions.

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

What Types of Doctors Can Provide Notes?

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) says employees are entitled to sick leave when they have any type of medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment. While some employers require a doctor’s note before granting sick leave, a doctor isn’t actually required for the note. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a note can be provided by any health care provider,even if they practice in another country and adhere to its laws Accepted health care providers include:

  • Medical doctors
  • Physician assistants (PAs)
  • Optometrists
  • Dentists
  • Chiropractors (but they must take 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:

You can obtain a doctor’s note from an urgent care facility, so consider calling around to different doctor’s offices, clinics, and urgent care locations to check their prices.

Ask each office about its 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 would mean losing wages for the days you 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 health care provider.

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 for lost 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!