Doesn’t Phase Me: Tales of Hospital Full Moon Horror
Hospital staff talk in hushed tones of the horrors of a full moon. If you become a nurse, then you’ll doubtless hear the tales of terror. Anxiety and fear rule the night, destroying calm and quiet. Patients worry and fret, and during the height of a full moon, a hospital is beset by a torrent of new arrivals, many of them victims of grisly and improbable violence.
Of course, this is folklore. The moon does not, in fact, make people anxious or violent, and hospital admissions do not correlate with the phases of the moon. However, the mythology around the moon is ancient; human beings have long associated the moon with insanity and fear. The Greek name for Earth’s satellite “Luna” is the root of the word “lunacy.”
Nevertheless, if you talk to any medical staff or scour the internet, you’ll find spooky healthcare myths and stories of full moon scares.
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Probably the most common story about hospitals or treatment centers during the full moon is that things are just generally more difficult. You’ll have more admissions than normal, everything that can go wrong will, and a department is more likely to be short-staffed. The unit will be full, patients will be worse off than they normally are, everyone will be on edge, and you can say goodbye to the chance to eat during your shift. The greatest horrors don’t come from scary monsters like unfamiliar diseases or unlikely injuries; it’s the transforming of familiar tasks into fearsome foes.
Related resource: Nurses’ Hospital Horror Stories
Nurses love to trade stories about what happened during a full moon shift. Posts like this one from an anonymous RN blogger are a good example of the type of stories that medical staff tell about full moon shifts. The writer outlines patients who claim alien abduction, unreasonable patient requests, gross stories, and plenty of screaming.
There may be a grain of truth to this association between the moon and human irritability. One theory goes that prior to the invention of electric lights, a full moon made sleeping more difficult. As nights grew brighter with the waxing moon, our ancestors found the extra light to be agitating and strange, and were unable to get the rest they needed. What was sometimes called “lunacy” could have been sleep deprivation. It might very well have been the case that without that extra bit of light, we would have never invented tales of vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night.
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The horrible truth!
The shocking and terrible truth about this healthcare myth, though, is that there doesn’t have to be a full moon for things to get stressful. Working in a hospital (especially at night) can be extraordinarily difficult. While it’s true that you’ll encounter patients who might have dramatic injuries or diagnoses, you’ll also encounter people who are stressed out or anxious because of more common conditions.
None of this has to happen because the moon is full. Healthcare staff deal with logistical and clinical challenges all the time. On any given shift you might witness one of the most consequential events of a patient’s life, and very likely the intense emotions that come with it. Challenges and stress might not have anything to do with that big bright thing in the night sky … more likely, it’s just another Tuesday.