Regardless of location and size, hospitals across the U.S. face a serious talent shortage, management staffing firm Leaders for Today warns in its report, "The Candidates Don't Exist." The hospital industry has seen signs of a shortage of nurses, physicians and leadership for some time.

"The unprecedented turnover the industry is facing in key positions, which has only exacerbated the shortages," according to the report. "Despite continued investment in recruiting personnel, external search firms, online platforms and new software technologies, hospitals are now beginning to face the realization that there just may not be enough qualified candidates available to meet their hiring needs."

This is an extremely difficult position, of course, especially as these organizations look to ramp up their services to patients, expand their staff or even fill holes left by employee transition. Per the findings, the absence of qualified candidates remains far and away the greatest concern of healthcare organization leaders.

All agencies seem to be affected by the shortages, which are not specific to any one location or hospital size. One might think hiring practices play a factor in not onboarding new employees quickly enough. But apparently not so.

While hiring situations and practices vary for hospitals, the same problem is found across all types and locations: When looking to make a hire, finding enough qualified candidates is a real problem.

"When vacancies remain high, the ability to safely and profitably deliver care becomes more difficult," the report stated. "Instituting a more efficient surgery schedule, lean programs or a quality/safety initiative becomes increasingly challenging when key positions are left unfilled or the leader is so new he/she can barely find the way to the cafeteria."

All of this uncertainty is placing a strain on healthcare organizations.

More than 30 percent of respondents said their organization can't find enough candidates, and almost 25 percent said the qualifications of new hires are questionable, perhaps lowering the bar for candidates so vacancies can be filled, while recruitment efforts are a never-ending cycle for hospital HR teams.

For example, more than 6 in 10 hospital-based HR recruiters handle 10 or more searches at any given time, and 27 percent manage 20 or more. Additionally, almost 75 percent of vacancies for hospital leaders take more than four months to fill, and 35 percent take more than seven months, the survey shows.

The problem goes beyond merely finding talent. Hospitals are also failing to retain good people they hire. An earlier survey by Leaders for Today found 37 percent of candidates plan to leave their current hospital within the next two years and nearly 7 in 10 plan to leave within five years.

Not surprisingly, the new survey shows goals like retention, career development and improving organizational culture at the bottom of HR teams' priorities.

Per separate reporting by Healthcare Dive, the ongoing doctor and nurse shortage in the U.S is in full tilt: "A 2017 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges projected the physician shortage in the U.S. will reach 105,000 by 2030. A more recent report by the American Medical Association found the number of physicians increased just 2.2 percent between 2012 and 2015, at a time when more people were gaining coverage under the Affordable Care Act."

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2017 show just 300,000 healthcare jobs were added; 70,000 fewer than the previous year. The drop in hiring stems from a host of financial pressures on healthcare organizations, with labor costs often one of the first places to cut.

The Leaders for Today study suggests, though, that jobs are not being cut — they just can't be filled.