Some had taken time out from their careers to requalify or take advance qualifications; they spoke at a ceremony at Homerton College, Cambridge.
Katie Chapman, 25, an auxiliary nurse at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, was receiving her higher-education diploma.
The qualification will raise her status to staff nurse and her pay from pounds 7,500 to pounds 12,800. "I am pessimistic for the future. At the moment it's very disheartening. You are working your hardest but not getting any respect or money. There is the bed crisis but if a bed is empty they say put someone in it, but there are not the people to care for them. It's dangerous."
Phil McMenemy, 35, a former engineer who came into nursing three-and- a-half years ago and who is now a psychiatric charge nurse in an adolescent unit at St Albans, said: "I think nursing is becoming more professional ... But ... we use bank and agency nurses because we can't fill the posts when they become vacant. This isn't good enough."
Gayle Jenkins, 45, had been in nursing for many years and works with cancer patients at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. She had taken a diploma in palliative care. She said: "The number of nurses coming from school has dropped drastically. They can go into other jobs such as computing which will pay them far more."
Mary Ferguson, 42, works at the Rosie Maternity Hospital in Cambridge as a midwife and took a diploma in midwifery, although she already had years of experience.
"You have the young ones coming up and you have to keep up. We are terribly short staffed ... but I love the job," she said.
Helena Ellerton, 46, has been in nursing for 25 years and works at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. She progressed from enrolled to state registered nurse and took time out to take the three-year diploma. "It's just for professional satisfaction ... I wish they would recognise nurses a little bit more," she said.
Nicola Hewer, 26, is a qualified registered general nurse and requalified to specialise in children's nursing. She works in the accident and emergency department at Addenbrooke's. "It's very stressful in A&E because we don't have any beds. I don't think the situation is going to improve because young people are going to go to University and will want to make shedloads of money at the end of it. There's a terrible lack of children's nurses in A&E."
Rachel Baker, 26, works on a children's ward at Peterborough District Hospital. She said: "We work so hard. I became ill because I was so tired. The more nurses that get qualified, the easier it will get. If the pay was enough more people would come into it."
Carole Crowson, 49, has been a state registered nurse since 1971. She manages an endoscopy unit at Peterborough District Hospital.
She said: "A lot of my age group are retiring and that has caused the problem but within the next three to four years, with Project 2000 [a graduate training scheme for nurses], the situation will improve."
Jo Simpson, 50, had taken a diploma in palliative care over three years as a modular course. She has been nursing for 28 years. "We have had lots of changes. I expect there will be some more. I certainly hope so."Reuse content