Post by Jordan Palmer, OMS-III


You are working when you get a phone call from family X who informs you that a close family member has had a medical emergency. This call will happen many times over the course of your career, for this discussion we’ll address the topics/questions you should flesh out to make these as easy for you as possible. In this episode our hosts Drs. Tanner Gronowski and Drew Kalnow are joined by Dr. Chris Colbert and Dr. Kristina Jacomino live at ACOEP’s 2022 Spring Seminar Conference.


Set Boundaries

  • Establish times/places you can discuss medical matters with friends and family (ie: outside of work or set specific times in the day)
  • Your comfort level with giving advice will change as you gain more experience.
  • State up front what type of advice you’re willing to give
    • Are you okay with advising on whether or not they need to go to the hospital?
    • Are you okay with writing prescriptions?
  • How much personal risk/liability are you willing to accept?
  • Agree on a set of rules for engagement.
  • When do you need to step down from the physician role and focus on being a family member? When do you need to step up?


Identify Your Role

  • Am I a decision maker?
  • Am I just supposed to be a sounding board?
  • Am I an educator/healthcare translator?
    • This profession is a gift, and the ability to advocate for your family can help lighten their burden.
    • Assuming the translator role may be a position of comfort for you and might help you process the emotions that come with having a sick family member.
  • Am I allowed to just be a “family member”?
    • Give yourself permission to just be a family member that may not have all the answers.


Being Willing to Help

  • You can strive to be the “approachable physician” that family members trust to go to with their medical issues while also maintaining boundaries.
  • In general, treat your patients with the same care you’d treat your family members and vice versa.



As a physician you will be called upon by your family, friends, and acquaintances to weigh in on medical issues. Identifying your role and setting boundaries can help you to handle these situations in the best capacity.



About Our Guests:

Chris Colbert, DO

Assistant Program Director, UIC Emergency Medicine Residency

Follow Dr. Colbert on Twitter @DrChrisER


Kristina Jacomino, MD

Assistant Director, US Fellowship, AdventHealth EM Residency


Listen to the Episode



  2. Chen FM, Feudtner C, Rhodes LA, Green LA. Role conflicts of physicians and their family members: rules but no rulebook. West J Med. 2001;175(4):236-240. doi:10.1136/ewjm.175.4.236


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The Family Doctor

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