The results of a nationwide vote by nurses and midwives over whether to accept a 2 percent pay rise will be known on Monday.
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The proposed pay rise affects about 27,000 workers and, if rejected, could lead to strike action in the heart of winter.
Registered Nurse Danni Wilkinson told The AM Show 2 percent is "woefully inadequate".
"Most of us of got into the profession wanting to do amazing things, but now the pressure on us has gotten so great that the not much is no longer enough.
"Understaffing is an issue for nurses getting toilet breaks or meal breaks, staying late to finish our wok. That's unpaid overtime because the money's not there to pay it."
According to Careers NZ, registered nurses usually start on a salary of $47,000 - around $23.70 per hour.
Ms Wilkinson says in this economy, a 2 percent pay rise isn't good enough.
"We still have to pay our bills. Most of us are coming out of nursing school with $40,000 in student loans.
"Having had a look at Australia, their lowest paid nurses and new graduates are getting 17 percent more than our graduate nurses."
She says if a strike goes ahead, a contingency plan will be put in place ensuring patient safety is not at risk.
"While strike action is not ideal, it's probably going to be the only way to make people sit up and take notice.
"The DHBs have played on this for many, many years that we won't strike because we're a caring profession. Now there's a lot of momentum and support. Now's the time."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's aware of the lack of investment in the health sector but says the negotiations are between nurses and DHBs.