The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said it will ballot its members for industrial action if its demands for increased staffing levels are not met.
The INMO said its members are exhausted, burnt out and undervalued and feel their profession is being annihilated.
INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said the union will consult with its members in the coming weeks which could result in a work-to-rule with a ban on overtime, redeployment and a withdrawal of cross cooperation in the community.
He said this will result in the closure of beds and curtailment of community services as members will "no longer be papering over the cracks" that are in the system.
Mr Doran said members will decide if all-out strike action is necessary.
The INMO says it will be also seeking the acceleration of pay restoration for its members
Mr Doran said nurses and midwives could no longer wait to have the almost 6% in cuts that were imposed in 2009, 2011 and 2013 restored and that the Lansdowne Road Agreement needs to be accelerated.
He also said the recruitment programmes for the nursing sector are not working and that two years after this began there are 340 fewer staff nurses in the system
Speaking to RTÉ's News at One, Mr Doran said: "Based upon having endured the cuts for several years, we have to accelerate the speed at which we restore the pay to our members.
"We have to have the Government re-engage.
"What's necessary is that we find a way within the agreement (Lansdowne) to have a process that will progress those issues because our members cannot endure the strains upon their income that they have done for the last six or seven years."
GRA has 'full and open' discussion with Fitzgerald
The Garda Representative Association has described its meeting with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald about their upcoming industrial action as a full and open discussion.
The 10,500 members of the GRA are planning to strike on 4, 11, 18 and 25 November in a dispute over pay.
GRA President Ciarán O'Neill said their delegation had outlined to the minister the anger and frustration of members, and explained the reason for their overwhelming rejection of settlement proposals.
He said the GRA was open to discussions which would be taking place in the future - though he declined to specify a date for such meetings.
Asked whether the minister had asked the GRA to defer their industrial action, he said: "My comments are as they were".
He reiterated that discussions would be taking place in the future with the department and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sulivan, when asked whether contingency plans for the strike were discussed.