How should the medical staff address leaves of absence in the bylaws?

Requests for leaves of absence have become more common in recent years, and it is important for medical staffs to have clear policies regarding their use. A member of the medical staff may request a leave of absence for personal reasons (e.g., the birth of a child, illness of a family member, participation in an extended mission project overseas, to pursue additional education, to fulfill required military services), or it may be necessary for the member to comply with mandated participation in an impaired practitioner program.

Sometimes a leave of absence is used so practitioners can voluntarily participate in a remedial education program when quality concerns have been raised regarding their practice. In general, a leave of absence is not reportable to the National Practitioner Data Bank and in many states, it is not reportable to the board of medicine. Your bylaws or associated manuals should specify how practitioners may request a leave of absence and who may authorize it. The acceptable duration of the leave should be included. If a practitioner fails to request reinstatement within this time period, the medical staff typically treats the situation as an automatic resignation. The bylaws language should make clear that the termination of a leave of absence is at the discretion of the board. The board may require evidence of activities that took place during the leave, and it may place appropriate conditions on practitioners if they are to resume their appointments.