Nurses threatening to strike over pay and conditions say they have no other option as many are now taking on second jobs or even using food banks to get by.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) began balloting its members on industrial action on Thursday for the first time in its 106-year history.
The First Minister says she is looking to do a deal on pay with NHS staff, after an initial 5% offer was rejected.
Charge nurse Rhys Greig told STV News: “This is a job that I do find very rewarding, but that feeling of reward, of what I’m doing and that satisfaction is dwindling and it’s harder and harder every day to come out of work feeling like I’ve done everything that I could possibly do.
“And that’s difficult. That’s really difficult. My pay doesn’t even cover all my bills and I can’t afford the petrol to get to my work.”
RCN Scotland board chair Julie Lamberth said the union has been “left with no option” but to take strike action.
Speaking ahead of the ballot opening she added: “Patient care is suffering, staffing levels are unsafe and members are facing a daily battle of how to feed their family, heat their homes and travel to their work.
“None of this is new, and as we head into another winter, we know it’s only going to get worse.”
Ms Greig said: “I would never have ever believed someone if they told me that I would be in that position as a nurse. What’s the point in putting yourself into personal debt? What’s the point of living paycheck to paycheck that doesn’t even cover everything? When you could go out and you know that you can get a better job, better pay.”
Health secretary Humza Yousaf has promised NHS staff he will make a “significantly improved” offer after the record 5% pay rise put forward by the Scottish Government was rejected.
Trade union Unison is already balloting more than 50,000 health workers on strike action, while the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland opened its ballot last month.
On Thursday, Unite the union announced that thousands of health workers including the Scottish Ambulance Service, paramedics, call handlers and radiographers were also being balloted for strike action.
Earlier this week Yousaf said he would do “everything” in his power to prevent industrial action taking place “which includes in our next meeting with trade unions coming forward with a significantly improved pay offer for them.”
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