Newly qualified nurses are working for free or being paid less than the minimum wage, according to reports.
The County Durham and Darlington NHS foundation trust and North Tees and the Hartlepool NHS trust are offering "honorary" training contracts to nurses who are unable to secure jobs.
Aidan Mullan, director of nursing at the North Tees trust, told Nursing Standard magazine: "We were unable to offer places to every newly qualified nurse who had an interest in working in the trust. The [honorary] places were to be supernumerary with the emphasis on development, not on the person being a spare pair of hands."
The nurses have no guarantee of a job at the end of the contract.
Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said huge NHS deficits were to blame.
"This is yet another example of nurses – and ultimately patients – having to pay for failures in the system. We are training nurses that are desperately needed, and then not giving them jobs. It is a terrible waste of their skills, it is wrong that they should have to work for free or below the minimum wage.
"The government should be tackling this issue as a matter of urgency. It is vital that newly qualified nurses get this period of preceptorship," he said.