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June 2012
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Woman no longer wants to make doctor referrals

Dear Annie: I work at a regional medical center, and friends and family often ask me to recommend a doctor or a physician's group for them. For a while, I didn't mind giving these people a few names, but I have grown reluctant to do so.

My reluctance is not because I don't trust in the knowledge and care provided by the doctors I work with. It's because of the negative feedback I get after these people visit the specialists I recommend. I am tired of handing out the names of good, hardworking practitioners to people who refuse to listen to the advice given to them. They don't want to take the prescribed medications or regimens, nor do they follow through with the therapy as ordered. Then they complain to the entire community about what terrible doctors I told them to see.

I feel as if the doctors are judging me each time they see my name as a referral. Yet when I decline to give suggestions, people react as if I am being a snob. How do I keep my sanity, as well as my career? - Please Stop Asking Me

Dear Please: Medical professionals are accustomed to patients who disregard their instructions, but you certainly can ask directly whether they would prefer that you not refer your friends and family to them. We suspect they are glad to know that someone who works closely with them thinks highly of their skills. But either way, you are under no obligation to give out recommendations. It's OK to tell people nicely that you no longer make referrals because you don't wish to mix your professional and personal lives. If they don't like it, too bad.

Dear Annie: My 85-year-old aunt, who was quite active, recently underwent extensive abdominal surgery and ended up in the hospital for six weeks. During this entire time, she was not bathed by the overworked nursing staff except for the times we complained about the smell. There wasn't even a washbasin in her room.

Eventually a friend of hers who is a retired nurse came in regularly and bathed her. This was in Florida, but I've heard similar stories from friends and family in other states. I think this is absolutely disgusting.

When I was a student nurse in the 1970s, my textbook dedicated 20 pages to the importance of bathing, not only for physical health, but for psychological well-being. Florence Nightingale said that nurses who allow sick patients to remain unwashed are interfering with their healing. This lack of care did not occur where I worked. We bathed our patients daily and gave them back rubs to increase circulation and prevent bedsores. Since then, nurses aides and LPNs have practically been eliminated.

My aunt is now home, but she is still weak from fighting off infections. It's no wonder. I would like to see the doctors and medical staff running the hospitals again and not the insurance companies, which seem to know nothing about human dignity. This kind of care is appalling. - Disgusted in New York

Dear New York: Health care costs have skyrocketed since you were in nursing school, and it is unfortunate that in some cases the level of care has deteriorated in an effort to save money. We, too, wish there were a better solution.

Dear Annie: This is for "Wish I Could Turn Back Time," the 62-year-old great-grandmother who served prison time for a nonviolent felony and can't get a job because of her record.

Most states have laws allowing for the expungement of criminal records, especially for nonviolent offenses. This allows those who made a mistake and learned their lesson to get a conviction removed from their record, in which case, she wouldn't need to tell prospective employers. She should check out the expungement requirements in her state. - L.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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