I just graduated in December 2011 from Saddleback. It IS an awesome program indeed.
To answer your questions:
I really would like to get a sense of what the curriculum will be like:
You are right, it is different for everyone - even though we all take the same classes - it's all about how you experience it. The curriculum is intense no matter who you are, but it's also fun. When you get in, if your class is anything like our grad class, all 60 of you will bond like one huge family
how much time might be devoted to studying outside of class:
In the beginning - lots. Roughly 4 hours for every one hour of class time. Before long, though, you kind of get a feel for the exams and have a better idea of where to focus your studies. Most people figure out (by second semester) that cramming and hardcore studying isn't always best. The content is nothing like the your pre-reqs. Anatomy is all memorizing, micro is 50/50 between memory and concept. Physio is almost purely conceptual. Nursing school
is conceptual AND critical thinking. You'll need to pull from your core physiological knowledge, incorporate nursing care and pharmacology with judgement and priority setting - all rolled in to one test question with 4 "right answers" - but only one is the "best" right answer. The hardest thing to grasp is that you can't exactly study judgement or critical thinking.
the amount of hours spent in clinicals
: Semester 1: 2 clinical days and one day to collect patient data for a pre-clinical work-up. You go to the hospital the day before your clinical and select a patient based on your objectives. you'll have 2 clinical days (back to back). Theory is always on Wednesdays.
Mental health: One clinical day (no workups - yay) but there will be lots of assignments to fill in the gaps
Semester 2: Med-surg: all 16 weeks. One clincal day, with the same preclinical work-up - only this time way more in depth.
(the toughest semester). We had looping rotations to the ER, OR, and Interventional Radiology.
Semester 3: More clinicals (one day w/ write ups) - Pediatrics. My personal Fave, then women's health (Labor and delivery).
Semester 4: More clinicals - only now it' MICU, SICU, CVICU with looping rotations to PACU, Telemetry, and ER
Plan on 8-10 hours of preclinical write ups the day before your clinical - especially in first semester. You'll spent about 8 hours on the floor, and 1.5 hours in post conference on the day of clinicals. Then plan on spending another 12 hours completing your care plan for that weeks clinicals. Most of us got pretty wise, and selected patients based on the topics that were covered that week in theory. that way we could study while we were completing care plans
hope this helps: I finished cum laude, and worked full time throughout with 2 teen daughters.... It CAN be done