Five-Star profanity

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

"Well, gosh. Just my luck.”

I don't know for certain that's how the Pennsylvania nursing home housekeeper responded after being fired for using bad language at work. But regardless, it's nothing compared with what she probably said when the court ruled she wouldn't get unemployment compensation either.

This raises an excellent and troubling question. Why do more people these days seem to use such naughty words? I'm not just overhearing it in shopping malls and grocery stores, but also from 5-year olds and seniors. There's a blue haze hanging over our nation's long-term facilities as well, infecting every strata of facility staffing and management.

In keeping with the sort of unfounded certainty we hear from presidential candidates, I can't prove any of this, but I still believe it. And it's a tough problem to tackle, especially since in most states it's no longer permissible to wash a bawdy administrator's mouth out with antimicrobial foam.

In preparing this thoughtful piece, I far exceeded my usual research standards and actually conducted an extensive, scientific survey of one friend who claims to know people who work in a wide range of professions, including long-term care.  “Why do folks talk that way?” I asked.

“Because, golly, sometimes it's just fun,” she responded. “And when things go horribly wrong, there's nothing quite like a well-placed ‘darn' to break the tension.”  I found her cavalier attitude pretty doggone offensive.

Mark Twain did not work in our profession, but clearly would have come down on the side of the foul-mouthed housekeeper. “When angry, count to four,” he is quoted as saying. “When very angry, swear.” Then, in typical Twain fashion, he took it too far. “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”

I suspect the colorful language echoing down the halls and through the break rooms of long-term care settings is simply a mirror of society in general, but I still can't support this discouraging trend. Swearing is lazy, like adding extra exclamation points to a half-hearted Facebook birthday greeting.

It's a far too accessible substitute for the careful thought that ideally should precede speech, and an impediment to quality communication. And if an administrator, nurse, CNA or admissions director is willing to make that kind of compromise, what other care corners might also get cut?

To be clear, I'm not suggesting profanity levels merit government regulation, or should affect your Five-Star quality rating. Yet.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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