The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has voted overwhelmingly for strike action over pay and staff shortages.
The union backed the ballot by 95%.
The INMO executive will meet on 7 and 8 January to set dates for a series of 24-hour stoppages.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said nurses want to do their jobs and care for patients properly, but low pay has led to staff shortages, which has comprised safe care.
She said that members had requested that the nature of the industrial action be very clear - with a series of 24-hour strikes.
However, she noted that there would be provision of emergency services, with a period for contingency planning built in to the strike notice.
The union said that recent pay proposals did not affect most nurses and midwives and were rejected as insufficient by 94% of INMO members in October.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Health Simon Harris said it was his belief that industrial action should be avoided and called on all parties to work intensively together to avert industrial action.
She added: "The Department of Health is to meet with the oversight committee this week for further engagement and the minister believes this is the most appropriate forum."
That meeting has since been deferred to January, with the deferral understood to be due to scheduling issues.
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Yesterday, it was announced that psychiatric nurses had voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action, up to and including strike action.
Members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association voted by 95% in favour of the action.
As a result, over 40,000 nurses are set for confrontation with the Government in the New Year.
It has repeatedly ruled out granting the 12% across the board pay rise sought by unions and have costed it at €300 million.
The Government has also raised concerns about knock on claims if the nurses get special treatment.