The blues drummers of long-term care

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz


After witnessing a musical performance that left me amazed and stupefied, I went home with a flash of insight and a long-sought analogy — facility administrators are the blues drummers of long-term care.

It was a local wine bar, and I hadn't expected much besides some good company, a tasty beverage and a band I'd never heard of making a distracting racket in the corner. But it turned out an award-winning drummer named Jimi Bott was in the house, and once his drum solo started, he had my undivided attention.

I really don't know how to describe it, and fortunately don't have to because here's a Youtube link to the same song from a few years back. (Skip to about the 3:07 mark, then watch transfixed.) It started out as a typical blues song of sadness and betrayal, heavily structured and quite predictable, until suddenly Jimi started flailing and smashing and it turned into the most beautifully controlled musical chaos I've ever seen.

I tried to figure out how he did it, even stood up from my stool for a better view, but he was faster than the human eye could comprehend. It was like watching Houdini escape from a strait jacket hanging over the street — you knew there was a whole lot going on you'd never be able to see or understand.

Every arm and leg was seemingly on its own unfathomable mission, independent of the others yet deeply coordinated and connected to the whole experience. I think he may also have been chewing gum, but I'll need to see the whole thing again in slow motion to be certain.

That's the way I feel about long-term care administrators. I've never known one who wasn't doing 17 difficult things at every moment. They're running around, taking calls, dealing with staff, residents and family members, solving problems, handling trivialities and matters of life and death with equal aplomb, all while zipping through the building like George Jetson in his rocket car.

Their drum solo involves essentially running a restaurant, hospital, bed and breakfast, health club, dormitory, call center, summer camp, air traffic control tower and counseling center — simultaneously, and all while monitoring survival threats from their NORAD-style computer dashboards and command bunkers.   

Miraculously, even as they move in a blur of indecipherable action, they're still fully tuned in to the words and needs of the person right in front of them. I watch their performances and never understand exactly how they do it, managing the cacophony and complexity with such effortlessness and grace. I inevitably leave the facility not knowing exactly what happened, but always impressed. Just like I did with Jimi.

Eventually, his dazzling display of virtuosity eased itself out of the spotlight, we applauded gratefully with mouths still agape, and the song continued. The cheating woman was still gone, the weeping man still aggrieved.

But it occurred to me that at no point did someone from the state show up in the middle of his solo and ask to see his paperwork, and I wasn't likely to see every missed note and misinterpreted mistake published on

Most administrators would agree — Jimi has it easy.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 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 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 at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.