About nine in 10 nurses have been verbally abused at work, according to a survey of 2,500 nurses.
The poll, carried out for Nursing Times magazine found that three out of four nurses believed abuse had become worse over the years.
More than a quarter said verbal abuse had made them consider quitting the profession altogether.
The majority of verbal abuse is experienced by nurses working in accident & emergency and mental health, by nurses working with patients with learning difficulties, or by midwives.
Male nurses were more likely to experience verbal abuse than their female counterparts.
A total of 81 per cent of nurses polled said the abuse came from patients, with 61 per cent pointing the finger at patients' relatives.
A total of 19 per cent said they received verbal abuse from doctors, 6 per cent from other nursing staff, 3 per cent from management and 2 per cent from other colleagues.
One in 10 said such abuse had contributed to them taking sick leave, with 32 per cent saying this had happened once and 11 per cent twice.
Just under half (45 per cent) had never received any training dealing with abusive patients.
The Royal College of Nursing described the figures as 'shocking', and health secretary John Reid stressed that any intimidation of staff, whether physical or verbal, would not be tolerated by the NHS.