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Your work schedule might be a killer

When you are wheeled into the emergency room of a Charlotte hospital, one of the very last things on your mind are the long hours the ER physician might have endured over the past week. But in many hospitals, ER doctors and nurses work long hours on rotating shifts that leave them exhausted, sleep-deprived and more likely to make mistakes that could affect you.

A recent Popular Science article points out that ER personnel aren't the only ones working their way through the nights, of course. About 15 million Americans do shift work that puts them at greater risk of workplace accidents, injuries and fatalities. "The graveyard shift, it turns out, is aptly named," says the publication. "Those who regularly endure it are also at higher risk for depression, obesity, diabetes, and cancer."

Biologists say the health risks to graveyard workers are brought about by disruptions to their circadian rhythms; cellular oscillations that sync cognition (and other things) with external stimuli such as light and temperature.

"I really worry we are killing ourselves," said an ER physician who supervises the residents and others going through the rotating shifts at a California hospital. "A single night shift has cognitive effects going out for a week. When you are done, you are burger meat, crispy fried."

The interruptions of circadian rhythms affect cognition, sleep, metabolism and mental health, among other things, researchers say.

Of course, regardless of the elevated risks of shift work, all of us are at risk of workplace injuries. When those injuries occur, most of us are eligible for North Carolina workers' compensation benefits.

Denied claims can be appealed with the help of a Charlotte workers' comp attorney.

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Charlotte, NC 28204

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