Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (PB).
CB: “So tell me about the full moon friday night”
PB: “Well everyone in the hospital knows that on a full moon friday night, not only is the emergency room going to be crazy busy, but it’s going to be very bizarre, odd, and horrific things that you haven’t seen before. Somebody’s gonna come in with a severed foot, or you know, something really disturbing that you haven’t seen before, that because of the full moon and the full moon being out on a friday night where they are just more risk takers. So yeah, its also in the rest of the hospital. If you’re working in the ICU someone is probably gonna code, or go into cardiac arrest. Someone on the floor is gonna have something bizarre happening. More people are gonna have sort of crazy behaviors, the dememnted people are going to have more severe delusions or hallucinations that haven’t had any other time they’ve been there. It’s just that you believe on a full moon friday night that its just going to be a crazy night.”
CB: “Why do you think people believe that?”
PB: “Um, I think they believe that because one, there is some science behind the full moon having an effect on human behavior, uh, but also because when the night is just going very crazy you have to have an explanation. And we are the type of people, in the healthcare world, where we want to just explain everything. So we’re gonna say well, its a full moon and that’s why this is happening.”
CB: “What does the superstition mean to you?”
PB: “To me, it means that we can explain things we can’t explain, and accept things that are out of our control. You know that the full moon happens once a month, and once a month you’re just gonna have that crazy shift. And it’s a way of giving reason to what can’t have reason.”
My informant has worked as a respiratory therapist for about 8 years. This position requires that she work with every part of the medical personnel and with every department. She has also worked in about 4 hospitals in the Northern California area. Because of this, she has become very integrated into the overarching healthcare culture surrounding her work. Despite the focus on the scientific, the healthcare field has many superstitions. They often help give the healthcare workers a sense of agency and meaning over the situations they find themselves in.
I interviewed my informant in person. We were in my bedroom on my bed, and the conversation was very comfortable and casual. I had heard many stories from her work beforehand.
Within healthcare, the professionals are constantly faced with unpredictable factors. They face all sorts of horrible situations while seeing people in some of the worst circumstances of their lives. These situations make human behaviors even less predictable than they usually are. With the start of every shift, healthcare workers have to accept a lot of uncertainty, and be open to facing difficult and potentially traumatic events. Because of this, a culture of trying to predict the unpredictable has arisen and led to the development of many healthcare superstitions. By labeling and accepting one night out of the month as a horrible, crazy shift healthcare workers are able to regain the ability to prepare for the unpredictable. It also allows for an explanation as to why patients they might normally like are behaving erratically, or out of character. The superstition also bonds the community as a whole. They are able to prepare for their crazy night as though they are going into battle. They might see something disturbing, but they will do it together, and they will come out the otherside having helped people.
For more variations of healthcare superstitions see SSMHealth’s blog post “10 ER superstitions for a full moon Friday the 13th”. https://www.ssmhealth.com/blogs/ssm-health-matters/september-2019/10-er-superstitions-for-a-full-moon-friday-the-13