When a therapist tells me a patient is "circling the drain" or a "frequent flyer," I immediately cringe at the idea of a professional using those terms. However, I also know exactly what they mean. When we get "knees," "hips" or "backs," they fail to become people who had surgery and are categorized into a simple word for what type of surgery they are recuperating from and having therapy for.
At the same time, when therapists use those words it conveys a better understanding of how to treat and handle the patients too. If a PT tells me my next patient is "circling the drain," I know I should not overexert the patient with activity, but I will still cringe when I hear those words. When I treat a "hip," I know which exercises and activity to perform to maximize the patient's rehab potential for her to go home. Maybe those shortened phrases are used so we don't have to remind one another about precautions, limitations and activity tolerance for some patients.
However, I'd be a little upset if I went for a haircut and overheard two of them talking about me as the "bald-spot guy in chair one." But then again, didn't I just see the "crazy-lady knee in room four" at work that day?