Healthcare News & Insights

Full moons & hospitals: Myths v. reality

Halloween is a holiday filled with frights and fun for people of all ages. But, for some hospital staff, one phenomenon is even scarier than the thought of ghosts and goblins: a full moon. There’s much debate about whether full moons bring crazy situations to hospitals. However, many doctors and nurses strongly believe this happens on a regular basis. 

Moon and cloudsThe phenomenon surrounding full moons and hospitals was discussed in a recent article from the Wall Street Journal.

In the article, clinical staff from various hospitals in the U.S. talked about their experiences working at the hospital on a full-moon night – and their beliefs that hospital admissions and births spiked during full-moon shifts.

According to those interviewed, not only did full moons generally bring more patients to the hospital, they also treated more patients with unusual ailments.

For example, one nurse discussed how she treated several busloads of teenagers for food poisoning during one full-moon shift. All of them became sick after eating dinner, and they were throwing up all over. There were so many ill young patients that some were lying on the floor attached to IVs.

Another strange occurrence: An OB-GYN participated in a rare delivery during an evening with a full moon. The baby was born inside the caul, or amniotic sac. This type of birth is associated with its own superstitions – most notably that the baby will have psychic powers. And it mystified nurses even more since it happened during a full moon.

Doctors and nurses had countless tales of seeing everything from psychotic episodes to nude patients escorted to the emergency department by police on nights with a full moon in the sky. Some were wary of working full-moon shifts because of these events.

Perception doesn’t match

The research doesn’t necessarily confirm clinical staff’s beliefs about full moon shenanigans, however.

A study from the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that, when analyzing admissions over a four-year period, there were no significant increases on nights where there was a full moon. And a paper published in the Nursing Research journal also showed that there was no real relationship between moon phases, hospital admissions and birth rates.

(But this may not be true for our furry friends: According to the Wall Street Journal, another study found that dogs and cats are more likely to visit emergency vet clinics on evenings where there’s a full moon.)

In a few years, your hospital will have the chance to see whether Halloween festivities mixed with a full moon actually do cause chaos. Astrology experts say the next Halloween with a full moon will take place in 2020, and it’s also on a weekend. (Some of your staff may want to start bracing themselves now!)

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