Last year, more than 700 nurses and health care assistants applied for grants worth an average of £500.
One in four grants were awarded to nursing staff earning a full time salary to cope with the cost of food, travel, rent and mortgage payments.
The RCN Foundation awarded more than a quarter of million pounds in 2016, compared to £56,000 a decade ago.
Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said: “It is a sad indictment that a growing number of nursing staff require financial assistance, even those on full time salaries, simply to cover everyday costs.
“Too many are struggling to make ends meet, with some taking on second jobs or even turning to foodbanks.”
“In Wednesday’s Budget, the Government must offer nurses and health care assistants a pay increase that keeps pace with the cost of living and not another real-terms cut.”
A formal public sector pay cap was announced in 2015, but nursing pay has lagged behind the cost of living since 2010.
In its submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, the RCN has called for a pay rise beyond the current 1% restriction, warning that unless nursing pay reflects the increase in cost of living, the NHS will struggle to retain and recruit staff.