More than 2,600 nursing and midwifery posts were vacant in September, pushing the vacancy rate up to 4.3 per cent compared to 1 per cent in 2011.
Hundreds of positions have been vacant for more than three months.
Consultant vacancies have also risen by 10 per cent since last year, amid growing waits for specialist tests and surgeries.
Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing Scotland director, said: “They [Nurses] want to do their absolute best for patients 365 days a year and their efforts are being seriously undermined by the growing gaps in the workforce.
“The significant rise in the number of ‘hard to fill’ posts, vacant for three months or longer, shows just how difficult health boards are finding it to recruit staff.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said there were record levels of staff working in the NHS and a new workforce plan will be published imminently.
She said: ““With demand on our NHS rising we’re committed to both record investment in our health service and ensuring the necessary reforms to deliver the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place, long into the future.”