A serious workforce shortage threatens America's health care system, a problem that will be compounded as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age.

About 168,000 hospital jobs nationwide, from registered nurses to lab technicians, remain open with few candidates looking to fill them, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

"The severe nursing and the workforce shortage that we have now is threatening access to care across the country," said Dianne Anderson,  president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

Hospitals are also having a hard time keeping pharmacists. About 21 percent of all positions are unfilled, according to the workforce survey.

"I could say that this is the worst shortage that I've experienced in my career so far," said pharmacist Joseph Gallina. "And the prognosis, while they were cyclical in the past, looks more dire now."

Many health care professionals are leaving their jobs because of the amount of paperwork they're asked to file.

"Nurses are spending less time at the bedside, because they're filling out papers and forms," said AHA President Dick Davidson.

Industry insiders say the shortage can be alleviated by increasing pay, offering better benefits and allowing for more flexible schedules.

"Staff is our greatest resource and we have to focus on investing in our staff," Davidson said.

The hospital workforce shortage is catching the attention of Congress and several pieces of leglislation aimed at attracting and retaining qualifed professionals are being proposed.