A medical certificate is a document completed by a medical professional attesting to the findings of a medical examination. It may be required by employers who need evidence of an employee's fitness for duty. Medical documentation may also be required by other institutions and organizations in order to verify whether an individual is disabled or has a medical condition requiring special services or accommodations. The types of health care professionals who can complete a certificate and the information required on a medical certificate vary according to the requirements of the organization or individual who requests the documentation.
A very common use of a medical certificate is demonstrating an employee's fitness for duty so that she can begin a job or return to work after an illness. Employers may also require a certificate of this kind before providing accommodations to an employee with either a disability or medical condition. For example, a pregnant woman may have to bring a medical certificate to work documenting her pregnancy so that she can avoid contact with hazardous materials that may pose a threat to her health and the health of her fetus.
Similar requirements may exist in both schools and in the military. For example, if a student is out of school for several weeks due to a serious illness, the school may require the student to provide a medical certificate attesting that the student is not contagious before returning to class. Schools may also require such a certificate as proof that a student was not simply truant during the period of time in which he was not present. The military may require medical certificates to show that a recruit is healthy enough for military service or that he is able to return to active duty after an illness or injury.
The requesting institution determines who gets to complete a medical certificate. If the medical certificate attests to the presence or absence of an illness, the organization's policy may allow for certification by any primary care medical professional, such as a nurse practitioner, physician, or physician assistant. Some organizations may recognize certification only by a physician. If the certification is part of a process qualifying an individual for a risky job or some form of high-level employment, the restrictions on who may complete this certificate may become much more stringent. In some cases, the organization may recognize only certification by a physician who has himself undergone a certification process attesting to his ability to evaluate someone's fitness for particular job or professional role.