Saint Mary's nurse tired of excuse notes -

Saint Mary’s nurse tired of excuse notes

Professors clog up clinic with students who may not be ill



Jane Collins is a very dedicated campus nurse. So dedicated, in fact, that she offers her cell phone number to students at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax so she can advise them after hours. She picked up on the first ring when Maclean’s On Campus called to find out whether she’d really stopped writing sick notes for those who show up to the campus health clinic, as reported by CBC.

She hasn’t entirely but says that, after 19 years on the job, she’s fed up that professors still ask students to get excuse notes for missed midterms, which is often a waste of time. The registrar has twice asked deans to pass that message along to professors but it’s not getting through.

In the busy post-midterm period, she has had to book off an hour a day just to write sick notes.

“Students I’m seeing come in saying, ‘I was sick two or three weeks ago and if you don’t give me a note I’m going to fail my [mid-term] exam,'” she says, “putting it all on my shoulders.”

Like professors and doctors, she suspects some are lying but has no way of knowing for sure.

“I wrote a note for one this morning,” she says, referring to a repeat customer who came in three times with the same seemingly-fixable complaint, which she said occurred 10 days ago. All Collins wrote was, “student states that she was ill; she was not seen at student health.” How useful is that?

“I’ll have students call me late at night and say, ‘I’ve been throwing up all night, I have an exam tomorrow, can you write me a note?'” she says. “I’m thinking, well, I don’t want to be too jaded but I have no way to know you’re throwing up. I can’t ask you to bring in a sample of vomit.”

She doesn’t want students with stomach flu coming in anyway, as they might infect others.

Collins emphasizes there are legitimately sick people who have documented anxiety or depression with campus counseling and she’s happy to write them notes. Others may be referred to doctors. For now though, many will be sent off-campus to walk-in clinics, which charge for sick notes.

She’s hoping to spark a change of culture on campus.

“It all comes down to the professor being responsible and saying, ‘you missed an exam, here’s a make-up,'” she says, “or the student studying even though they have three exams in two days.”


Saint Mary’s nurse tired of excuse notes

  1. Sorry, but if you don’t demand sick notes, all the students will be saying they were sick so they can have extra study time.

    Ah, you have to write a few notes? Do you have any idea how long it takes to prepare and deliver a makeup exam?

    • Dear Prof – clearly you do not feel as if you are working WITH or FOR students. Your disdain for this nurse and her profession is an embarrassment, and your closed mindset to the problem speaks volumes. Instead of whining and trying to lay blame, why don’t you work together with stakeholders to find a solution?

  2. Kudos to this nurse for coming around to what many other major universities in the US have already come around to, such as:

    and many others.

    A campus health center serves a much larger population than any one professor, and resources are limited.

    College and graduate students are adult learners and should be treated as such. If a professor misses a class, are they required to offer a note to their students? or department chairs? absolutely not. Professors need to treat their learners as adults and consider making alternate versions of an exam for this contingency.

    -A student health director at a major US university.

  3. Notes are required as a show of academic integrity and support for those students who come to class, turn their assignments in on time, and write their midterms when scheduled. Students cannot just be allowed to set their own exam dates. Having rules around this matter such as requiring documentation teaches work ethic. Most profs I know use their discretion in credible cases.

  4. Just have a bunch of signed notes ready and hand them out, how difficult is that? If you offer a make-up, then the students will be lined up for notes for the make-up, and so on ad nauseam. Welcome to bureaucracy! And the Profs are tired too, we eventually decide to just move more and more marks to the final exam…. and yes we do have make-up exams for the final…. and we need notes for that. Let the wheels turn, but this is not a faculty problem, we have plenty already.

  5. I’m not sure it’s professors who are clogging up clinics. Rather, it’s the students who–in all too many cases–are ill-prepared (yes, pun intended), are hoping for an advantage be it extra time, a chance to ask questions of those who have already written, or just can’t face reality. At the very least I hope there is a consequence such as matching the extra time to prepare or failure to take care of one’s self, etc with a tougher assignment or a late-mark penalty.

  6. I think students who are “sick” a unreasonable amount of time need to be evaluated for mental health issues. Many may be depressed or have developed anxiety disorders. If their grades and attendance was normal in high school then takes a drop, they probably need some assistance. Maybe they have developed addiction issues? I was a college student once and a small percentage of students abuse “sickness excuses” when they really had time planning issues or their priories not in order. Maybe the college(s) needs to look deeper into This. What about an anonymous questionnaire if they have ever used sick notes because of lack of preparation or stress, mental health problems(depression, anxiety .ect..). I think they are failing to catch a greater problem.

  7. As a student, even sick I can find time to study and if you’ve waited so last minute to study that a cold is going to be the difference between failing and passing you’re not prepared. It’s not fair to the rest of us that some people go out partying and then get Dr notes for being sick, “hungover”. If this were allowed why are there even deadlines in the first place? There needs to more strict guidelines and overall, students need to learn to be healthy.

    My first year of university I was constantly sick, and now well into my third year it’s been over a year since I’ve even had the flu. If students were a little more dedicated maybe hard working nurses could actually help those who needed help. Now, notes aren’t always bad as sometimes people are legitimately sick, but if they are constantly.. something needs to be reevaluated.