Nurses working in Emergency Departments have been voting on industrial action, with the results expected to be announced today.
Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) have expressed widespread frustration at the levels of overcrowding in hospitals nationwide, and counting of the ballots began yesterday evening.
"We can't go through another winter like last year. It was horrendous," said Karen McGowan (30), who works in the Emergency Department (ED) of a busy Dublin hospital.
"I am working in the ED for the last seven years. The situation has worsened. It feels like every year it is getting worse," she told the Herald.
"We only have a certain number of trolleys," she said.
What happens when they are full is that the patients are left on chairs, she said.
Meanwhile, in an overcrowded space nurses often have to move trolleys which are lined up side by side, "this way and that" to get access to the patient
"It's just people everywhere. Any space we can use, we will use it," she said.
"We are there for the best interests of the patients, and we strive for the best standards that we can," she said.
"There is a constant flow of ambulances coming in and they may make 30 trips a day, so they are constantly coming and going.
"The numbers keep coming and we deal with the flow constantly as best we can," she said.
"It is very difficult. But at the same time you are there as a nurse, and you are there to care, to provide a service," Karen said.
She said nurses and nurse managers don't want to take industrial action, but they want the Government to do something about the situation.
"This is an ongoing problem and it hasn't been resolved and we are just not getting places, and we can't do this to the patients for another winter," she said.
The executive council of the INMO said earlier this month that it was going to ballot all its members working in EDs.
"This is to seek a mandate for industrial action, up to and including the withdrawal of labour, in protest at the persistent, and deepening levels of overcrowding in ED departments across the country," the INMO said.
It said in the first 10 months of this year, almost 80,000 admitted patients were on trolleys.
The body is calling for initiatives on staffing including recruitment and retention.