Preparations for a three-day hospital nursing strike in the Twin Cities and Duluth next week have flooded the Minnesota Board of Nursing with temporary licensing applications.

The board has received 7,604 permit applications since June 6, largely from replacement nurses around the country receiving high-dollar offers to work in the affected hospitals next week. That is seven times more applications than during the same time last year.

"Our typical processing time … is five days, however, we are currently at 10 to 14 days for permits," said Kimberly Miller, executive director for the state nursing board.

Whether the lag will affect staffing in hospitals next week is unclear, but failed negotiations over the holiday weekend brought the strike closer to reality. The walkout, billed as the largest private-sector nursing strike in U.S. history, is timed to start at the end of the overnight nursing shift at 7 a.m. Monday and conclude at 7 a.m. Thursday.

New three-year contracts are three months overdue for more than 12,000 nurses at Allina, Children's and Fairview hospitals in the Twin Cities along with North Memorial in Robbinsdale and Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. Talks are ongoing for about 2,500 nurses at Essentia Health and St. Luke's in Duluth as well.

Talks continued Tuesday evening between negotiators for Allina and their nurses, represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association. Talks are scheduled later this week for the other hospitals, but soon they will have to lock in contracts with temporary staffing agencies so they will have time to fly replacement nurses in and train them before the strike.

The two sides are far apart, with hospitals offering more than a 10% increase in pay over three years and the nurses seeking an increase of more than 30%. The nurses want the increase and other measures to prevent burned-out colleagues from leaving the profession and creating disruptive staffing shortages in hospitals.

The strike will be costly. This week, Medical Staffing Solutions Inc. was offering one-week wages for temporary nurses between $7,900 and $9,400 — depending on their specialties — plus expenses for travel and lodging.

Hundreds of permits were approved just in the last four days, some for nurses traveling from as far as Texas, Washington state and Georgia.