I, too, am looking to go into advanced practice nursing...I can't offer advice as a nurse, but I can share with you what I know about some of the options available.
I went to an information session at UCSF for their MEPN (Master's Entry Program in Nursing) program last month, which was very informative. I was concerned about the fact that I could graduate with a degree in advanced practice nursing without ever really having any real clinical experience. The reps there assured me that in terms of jobs, that wouldn't really stand in my way, due largely to the nursing shortage, it seems. They said that you might have to work for a year as an RN, but most people are placed directly into advanced practice roles. I suppose that this was supposed to be encouraging, but I'm frankly a little nervous about calling myself "advanced" in something I've only really experienced at the "beginner" level.
There might be a little relief, however: for some of its MEPN tracks, you can take a year off in between your RN and Master's studies and work as a nurse (and subsequently have your first year of school paid for...it's a scholarship
program). This route makes me feel a *little* better.
I'm not sure where you are within the country, but I know that there are several master's-entry programs around. I know of three in the Bay Area (including UCSF), and I'm nearly positive that there are others at other colleges and universities with nursing programs. I'm focusing on the Bay area, though, so I can't offer specifics.
Personally, I'm planning on applying to both advanced-practive programs and standard RN programs. I'm positive that being a nurse practitioner is the career for me, and I'd rather get there sooner than later. (If, for some reason, the route was a poor one, I can always serve as an RN, since I'll have the license.) However, in the event that the schools summarily reject me (please, please, please no!), I want to have a backup plan. (But I hope it doesn't come to that!)
I hope some of this helps! If you want to chat more, don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org