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Navigating Medical Certifications: Authorized Healthcare Providers

Hands typing on a laptop with stethoscope beside the computer.

Determining who is authorized to provide medical certification is a crucial aspect of processing requests for family and medical leave (FML) and temporary disability leave (TDL).

When processing leave requests, HR professionals must review the medical certification forms completed by a healthcare provider. Sometimes it’s assumed that healthcare providers must be doctors or physicians, but that isn’t the case. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Fact Sheet #28G, the definition of a healthcare provider includes various professionals beyond traditional doctors and physicians. 

Authorized Healthcare Providers

Under the FMLA, a healthcare provider includes professionals authorized to practice in the state and performing within the scope of their practice. The authorized healthcare providers include:

  • A doctor of medicine or osteopathy
  • A podiatrist, dentist, clinical psychologist, optometrist, or chiropractor – with limitations
  • A nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, clinical social worker, or physician assistant

Moreover, the FMLA definition of healthcare provider also encompasses:

  • A Christian Science practitioner listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Any health care provider from whom the employer or the employer’s group health plan’s benefits manager will accept a medical certification to substantiate a claim for benefits

Providers from Different Countries

An employee or employee’s family member may seek medical care when visiting another country or may travel to another country for a medical procedure. Employers must accept a medical certification from a healthcare provider outside the United States. If the form wasn’t completed in English, the employee may be required to provide a written translation of the medical certification. 

Temporary Disability Leave

Districts are responsible for establishing clear guidelines for handling requests for TDL. According to Texas Education Code (TEC) § 21.409, the request for TDL must include a physician’s statement confirming the inability to work and probable date of return. District procedures should include how to make a request, forms to be used, and the type of medical certification required. While TEC references a physician’s statement, the district, at its discretion, may use the healthcare provider list from the FMLA as long as it’s applied consistently.  


Employers come across many unique situations when working through the FML designation and TDL approval processes. It’s important to understand the FMLA definition of healthcare provider and consistently reference FMLA guidance, Texas Education Code, and district policy and procedures when handling leave requests.

For more information related to this subject, see the following resources:

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Shannon Burns
Shannon Burns
HR Consultant

Shannon Burns joined HR Services in 2023 as an HR consultant. She has 22 years of experience in public school districts serving as an executive director of human resources, special programs coordinator, campus administrator, and teacher.

Burns earned her master’s degree from Texas A&M in Kingsville and her superintendent certificate from The University of Texas at Tyler.

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TASB HR Services supports HR leadership in Texas schools through membership offerings in specialized training, consulting, and other services.
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