Well, I just got done with my CPNE weekend and passed! (insert happy-nutso-medic-dance). It was NOT easy, but is doable and the clinical examiners/clinical associate were all very, very supportive.
Ncredhed, to answer your questions about study aids:
I relied heavily on the free downloadable Content Guides for each exam at the Excelsior website. The must-have textbooks (in my opinion) are the Fundamentals of Nursing, the Medical Surgical nursing book
(s), and the pediatric/maternal textbook. If you can find cheap older editions or good notes on the mental health nursing, community nursing, and other textbooks, you may do fine with those. The pharmacology text was "okay"; some good information in there, but *ouch* on the price for it.
I did purchase the Study Guide 101 notes, and they were okay. Kinda chaotic in the organization and not 100% accurate in the information they offer, so use them carefully.
The practice exams were a must for me, and worth the extra expense.
If you feel your nursing skills need visual help, I really encourage you to either find the Taylor's Fundamental of Nursing book with the inner cover scratch off code still intact, or buy it new. With that code, you can access the publisher's website, which houses a number of nursing skills videos. Or, if you can find the used book for cheap but without the intact code, consider buying the Taylor Clinical Nursing Skills DVD to help you with the skills you may need to do for the CPNE. You could dig up YouTube videos on each skill, but be careful that they follow the nursing practices outlined in the Fundamental of Nursing book. That is the reference the CPNE uses for skills.
After all is said and done, I have spent as much money on Excelsior as I would have at one of our brick n' mortar schools. But, I was able to maintain my current full time employment doing this on my own time, so in reality, I'm ahead by a lot. No regrets at all.
Good luck on your adventure!