Debt is the main reason for health students considering quitting their studies in more than half of cases, with nursing diploma students among the worst affected.
Almost a quarter of all health students owe more than £10,000, according to a report from public sector union Unison. And nursing diploma students are starting their careers owing an average of 40% of their annual salary.
Unison is now calling for a review of health student funding to avoid a recruitment and retention crisis.
Gail Adams, Unison's head of nursing, commented: "This survey has very worrying implications for the future health of the NHS. Students are simply not getting enough financial support.
"With one-third of nurses due to retire in the next 10 years, and the number of health professionals coming from overseas to work in the UK falling, urgent action is needed to avoid a serious skills shortage."
Ms Adams added: "We are calling on the government to comprehensively review the current bursary system, including considering a return to paying health students a salary.
"We also need to see increased help for mature students with children, and ethnic minorities, who this survey shows are facing increased financial pressures."
Is this surprising? What do you think the government can do to stop student nures quitting? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"This is not surpising. Every year the cost of living rises and bursaries stay more or less the same. You spend three years studying at degree or diploma level for an annual salary of £17,000-20,000. By the time you pay your debts you have nothing left to live on. That is very discouraging. You even find that admin assistants get a similar kind of annual salary and do not have to spend three years at university." - Christina O, Birmingham