Nurses' morale has hit a ten-year low amid rising concerns of job insecurity and poor pay.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) surveyed its members and found optimism over job security, career progression and training are at the lowest level since 1997.
Following a year of stringent cost cuts, more than a third of nurses are now actively worried about redundancy, compared to seven per cent in 2005.
The RCN survey Holding On found the number of nurses who think nursing offers a secure future has halved from 71 per cent in 2005.
Fewer than half would now recommend others pursue nursing as a career.
RCN general secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said: "To have such a large part of the nursing workforce genuinely worried about the security of their employment is simply unacceptable.
"Despite feeling undervalued, underpaid and under threat our nurses continue to put in the hours and dedication to deliver high quality patient care.
"In the week that nurses are receiving ballot papers on proposed industrial action this survey demonstrates to the government that nurses' goodwill is at breaking point."
Nearly nine in ten of those surveyed said nursing was poorly paid compared to other professions.
Despite complaining of an effective pay cut, the survey also found nurses are working longer hours. Full-time nurses work 44 hours a week on average, seven more than they are contracted to do so.
The health secretary Alan Johnson acknowledged morale had suffered after a "very tough year for nurses".
He said: "I understand the problems they face and their frustration with the staged pay award.
"This is a difficult but essential part of the government's overall public sector pay strategy to control inflation so that we don't see a return to higher interest rates and higher prices."
Mr Johnson recognised nurses have concerns over job security but said some trusts had been forced to take tough decisions to get back in the black.
He concluded: "Nurses have played a vital role in transforming patient care. The results are impressive but this has meant a lot of change in a short space of time.
"I know that too much change can affect morale. This has to change."
The health secretary said the government would begin to listen to nurses and promised an end to centrally dictated restructuring.