Long Hours Indoors Puts Nurses at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, June 09, 2022 Posted in Healthy Living

vitamin-d

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies among adults in the United States. It tends to disproportionately affect certain groups based on their diet and lifestyle, including nurses and other healthcare professionals. While focused on caring for patients, many nurses neglect their own health, and vitamin deficiency is one unfortunate result. Simple adjustments to diet and lifestyle can make a big impact on a nurse’s health and wellness.

Why vitamin D deficiency is common in nurses

Vitamin D is a critical component of human health. It keeps bones strong and healthy, and supports the immune, muscular, and cardiovascular systems. Unfortunately, it’s common for adults to develop a vitamin D deficiency, and while deficiencies may be related to some medical conditions, they’re more often related to lifestyle and dietary factors.

People who spend a lot of time indoors and out of the sun are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. The human body produces vitamin D after absorbing sunlight through the skin, so those who spend the majority of the daylight hours indoors are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.

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Nurses work long shifts — typically between 10 and 12 hours — indoors. It’s not always possible to take an extended break during these shifts, which prevents nurses from going outside and results in limited access to natural light.

Nurses might also neglect their nutritional balance during busy shifts. Long hours and erratic schedules make it more difficult to eat healthy meals that provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals. If you’re snacking throughout your shifts and not getting outside, you might be missing out on essential vitamin D.

All these factors contribute to a prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in nurses.

Watch for signs of low vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is not something to ignore. This is particularly true for nurses, who must remain active, agile, and awake to provide quality care to their patients. Adults with vitamin D deficiency might experience persistent fatigue, muscle weakness, aches, or cramps, bone pain, and mood changes like depression. Over time, the deficiency could lead to loss of bone density and osteoporosis.

Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to rectify vitamin D deficiency. A few lifestyle and dietary changes can provide you the vitamin D you need.

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  • Spend time outdoors. Your body will naturally produce vitamin D when you spend time in the sun. Take walks outside during breaks or on days off. You only need about 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week to produce enough vitamin D.
  • Eat the right foods. Pay close attention to what you eat — on and off shift. If you struggle to eat balanced meals during work hours, be intentional about the snacks you choose. Fortified orange juice, cereals, and yogurt are quick snacks that contain vitamin D.
  • Try supplements. Some nurses can’t eat a majority of vitamin D-fortified foods because of dietary restrictions. Others may not have time to get outside regularly. If you’re still struggling with a vitamin D deficiency after attempting lifestyle changes, consider taking a multivitamin or vitamin D supplement.

Combined with vitamin D deficiency screenings, these habit and lifestyle changes help nurses take care of themselves, so they can take good care of others.

At Health Providers Choice, the health and well-being of our travel nurses comes first. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself on assignment. If you need anything, your HPC recruiter is always ready to provide resources and assistance. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.