Academic Psychiatry

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 22–30 | Cite as

Informal Health Care Practices of Residents: “Curbside” Consultation and Self-Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Laura Weiss Roberts
  • Jane Paik KimEmail author
Empirical Report



The authors explore the experiences of residents with respect to informal care related to personal health, including “curbside consultation,” self-diagnosis, and self-prescription—self-care practices that run counter to ethical guidelines in medicine.


Residents at one medical school completed a written survey regarding their personal health care practices, including their experiences in seeking or providing informal consultation, self-diagnosis, and self-prescribing. The authors obtained frequency data and analyzed responses via cross-tabulation. They used logistic regression models to assess the association of reported informal care practices and potential confounders, such as age, gender, and training program.


One hundred and fifty-five residents volunteered (71 % response rate). Most respondents had sought health care formally (70 %), and more had sought informal care in the previous 12 months (80 %). Of those who had pursued informal care, 90 % endorsed having requested a physical exam, a laboratory test, or a medication prescription from an attending, resident, or medical student. Respondents (28 %) commonly endorsed prescribing medication for themselves. Most respondents (90 %) reported being approached for informal care at least once in the previous year, including 84 % who were approached for prescriptions and 22 % who were approached by attending physicians. Main reasons endorsed for informal care seeking related to busy schedules and to cost and confidentiality advantages. Psychiatry residents reported using both formal and informal channels for personal health care, and 31 % acknowledged prescribing medications for themselves.


Informal care was a common practice among the residents in this study. Residents reported time constraints as the greatest influence on informal care seeking, rather than reasons found in previous studies related to cost and quality of care, protection of confidentiality, or prevention of embarrassment. The effects of informal care practices involving resident physicians warrant additional study.


Psychiatric residents Informal care Curbside consultation 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the Arnold P. Gold Foundation of New Jersey in supporting our conduct of this project.


Dr. Roberts owns Terra Nova Learning Systems and also receives royalties from books she has authored and edited. Dr. Kim has nothing to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Academic Psychiatry 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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