The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) on Monday called for better working conditions in the Free State.
The organisation marched to the health department's offices in Bloemfontein to complain about the province's "dysfunctional and severely understaffed health facilities" and the negative consequences this was having on residents.
They were understaffed, student nurses were not being paid their stipends, and the department needed new management, they said.
The Denosa Learner Movement's Free State secretary Gift Mnyamane said nurses were tired because they were overworked.
"[The department] must employ nurses because there are a lot of nurses who are without permanent jobs in the province. This will reduce the mortality rate in the province because each and every nurse will work within their scope of practice and this will improve patient care."
Mnyamane said students nurses had been trying, without success, to get the department to take action.
The Free State School of Nursing's management structure needed to be replaced because the current one was "grossly incompetent". Some students' stipends had not been paid and it was not clear when this would happen, Mnyamane said.