One in four nurses has taken up a second job to boost their pay, figures reveal.
Many are taking on additional work with agencies where hourly rates are higher than permanent jobs.
But some have jobs outside of nursing including in restaurants, bars or supermarkets.
The survey of 7,720 nurses by the Royal College of Nursing also found 2 per cent had used food banks or charities in the last year.
A survey of thousands found that 2 per cent of nurses used foodbanks or charities and a quarter work second jobs
The College said many nurses were facing severe ‘financial hardship’ due to Government freezes on their pay.
An average nurse ‘middle grade’ nurse earns £26,370 a year, and this is only a slight increase compared to their £25,206 salary in 2010/11.
But the RCN claims that this amounts to a pay cut of £2,440 once rises in inflation have been taken into account.
The NHS is facing a severe shortage of nurses and an estimated 40,000 posts are currently vacant, about one in nine of the workforce.
Many nurses are quitting to work for agencies or the private sector where they work flexible hours for higher pay.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said: ‘The shocking findings we’re highlighting today demonstrate just how severe the financial pressure on nursing staff has now become.
‘It is ludicrous that the health service is losing valuable highly-trained staff simply because they can’t pay the bills at the end of the month.
‘What people don’t realise is that a large part of the efficiency savings the NHS has managed to make have only come from hard-pressed staff having their pay reduced every year in real terms.
The Royal College of Nursing says ‘shocking findings’ show the strain that NHS nurses are under
‘No wonder the health service is short of 40,000 nurses in England alone.’
The survey also found that 40 per cent of nurses had borrowed money from friends, family or the bank to supplement their earnings.
Another six per cent had taken out a payday loan and 50 per cent worked overtime in their current job.
Some 23 per cent had a second job and of these, 16 per cent were employed in non-nursing work.
The survey did not specify which jobs they were doing but nurses have previously spoken about working in restaurants, bars or supermarkets.
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said: ‘The Tories’ pay cap has contributed to the staffing crisis now facing the NHS. It’s shameful in this day and age that nurses struggle to make ends meet and are pushed out of the careers they love because they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month.
Sara Gorton, head of health at the union Unison said: ‘These findings echo what staff across the entire NHS have been telling us. NHS employees as a whole are struggling to survive on just their basic pay.’