The Scottish government is being urged to safeguard vital services as nurses and midwives are forced to fight to secure NHS jobs.
In a bid to save money, health boards are resorting to "unsustainable tactics" including not replacing people and freezing posts, which is affecting available positions for newly trained nurses, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland said.
The measures could have "devastating consequences" for future patient care, the union warned.
This year nearly 4,000 NHS posts will be cut, including 1,500 midwifery and nursing jobs, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced to MSPs in June.
She insisted patient care would not be affected by the cuts and said there would be no compulsory redundancies.
Associate Director of RCN Scotland, Ellen Hudson, has voiced her concerns about the impact of any cuts on people trying to start a career in nursing.
She told Scotland on Sunday: "To save money, many health boards are focusing on the nursing wages bill and are using unsustainable tactics, such as freezing posts, not replacing registered nurses when they leave or retire and converting vacant registered nurse posts to a lower grade so that they cost less. This has resulted in far fewer employment opportunities for newly qualified nurses."
Ms Hudson also questioned whether a scheme which offers new nurses a one-year NHS job guarantee after they qualify would be able to continue in the current financial climate.
She added: "The nursing workforce in Scotland is ageing and we are losing the skills and experience of older nurses who are retiring. If we do not replace them with new registered nurses this could have devastating consequences for the future of patient care in Scotland."
The Royal College of Midwives Scotland also spoke of similar concerns and suggested that there may soon be no jobs at all for newly qualified midwives.
"I am qualifying next month and there are a grand total of three vacancies on the SHOW website, one each for Children, Learning Disability and Community Mental Health. I am in the process of phoning and writing to every nursing home, starting from my home town and working my way out to within an hour or so drive, I have had over £18k of bursary which I don't have to pay back and you would think that the government would like to 'get their money's worth'" - Liz Higgins, Ayrshire, Scotland