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Burnout: How to begin short-term medical leave

The process is pretty straight forward.

New clients often arrive at my office in burnout. Sometimes I suggest they take short-term medical leave because they are so exhausted. Sometimes that leave lasts more than 12 weeks and transitions to long-term medical leave.

Learn the details of your medical leave plan.

Most people know whether they have medical leave coverage as part of their benefits plan with their employer, but don’t know the details of the plan. I encourage my clients to become knowledgeable about this part of their plan quickly. A good place for them to find this information is either by looking on-line or by asking a member of their Human Resources (HR) Department at work.

When a client agrees that going on medical leave is a good idea, I talk them through the process of how to get onto medical leave. I do this because the experience in new for most people, and it’s easier when you have a guide to walk you through the process.

Ask your family doctor to put you on leave.

I begin by asking my clients if they have a family doctor. I try to always know a family doctor that is taking new patients because sometimes people don’t have a family doctor when they arrive at my office.

I tell my clients that they will need to make an appointment with their family doctor, or make a first appointment with a physician that is accepting new patients, if need be.

The family doctor can write a note and fax it to your Human Resources (HR)Department, stating that they are putting you on medical leave. For this reason, I encourage my client’s to bring a contact name and a fax number to the appointment with the physician so that the physician knows where to send the note.

Insurance companies require a medical doctor to complete the paperwork.

You will require a physician to be part of your treatment team if you need to go on medical leave. To help out, I frequently fax a letter that I have written about my client’s situation to the family doctor, to make supporting the person and writing the initial note easier for the physician.

Once your HR Department has received the physician’s note, they will contact the medical insurance provider directly. Either your HR Department or your insurance company will provide you with a copy of the application form for medical leave and will ask you to complete it. They will also instruct you where to send it.

Your HR Department or your insurance company will also give you a form for your physician to complete, or will send the form to your physician directly. Either way, it will be your responsibility to ensure that your physician completes and returns the form.

A case manager from the insurance company will contact you.

I tell my clients that a representative of the insurance company that will become their case manager will contact them after the paperwork is received. Sometimes this happens quickly and sometimes it takes several weeks or even months.

The case manager may be in contact with you frequently, and may ask you to complete a number of different forms. It will help you to manage your stress if you expect this to happen and accept it. Some weeks, you may have to put in three or four hours completing paper work and talking to employees or contactors from the insurance company.

Be completely honest and forth-coming.

I suggest that my clients be completely honest and forth-coming with their case manager. I suggest they are open about how they are functioning and about what struggles they are having.

I also encourage my clients to share information such as planned absences, especially when the absence involves vacations that were arranged before they started medical leave. It is better to forewarn your case manager about what you have planned and to possibly be denied, than to be asked to justify your actions after the fact.

Learn if your privacy is protected.

Clients express concern about whether what they tell their case manager will be shared with their employer. I tell them that this has never happened in my experience, and that an insurance company would be in trouble if their clients’ confidentiality were breeched.

I encourage my clients to discuss this topic with their case manager, however, so they can learn the insurance company’s policy concerning confidentiality first-hand.

Learn what companies cover your short-term leave and long-term leave.

Sometimes an employer does not work with an insurance company for short-term medical leave, preferring to cover short-term leaves themselves. In these situations,  I have seen companies hire third-party firms to interact with employees so that the employer remains at arm’s length from the employee. This is done to ensure the employee’s confidentiality is respected, and to ensure the employer remains impartial when decisions are made concerning whether to grant medical leave or not.

It is not unusual for different companies to cover your short-term medical leave and long-term medical leave, so know what your benefits package says about both so that you don’t receive any surprises.

You may need to transition to long-term leave

If you stay on medical leave for more than 12-weeks, most insurance companies will transition you from short-term medical leave to long-term medical leave. Most case managers will help you through this transition, although I support my clients through this transition, as well, because the process can be stressful.

— Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta

If you would like support, contact me to schedule an appointment or a free 15 minute consultation.


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