The 12 week orientation consists of both classroom time (ECCO, PACEP, other classes for new nurses, etc.) and preceptorship on the floor. When you're on the floor, you're always with a RN preceptor. After your orientation, they typically pre-assign your two patients for about 1 month so you can build confidence, time-management, and skills on your own on patients who won't make you soil your pants as a new nurse.
I can't really compare the cost of living between Reno and Vegas...I've never lived in Vegas. What I can tell you as a new grad, claiming 1 exemption for taxes, and having benefits deducted (med, vision, dental), and working 36 hours/week I'd be bringing home $1650 every two weeks. You should take a look at Craigslist to get an idea of rental costs if that's what you want to do. The housing market took a pretty big hit, so home prices are low....definitely a buyer's market. Also, there was plenty of overtime available usually, so each overtime shift added about $300 to my paycheck after taxes - and I never really worked more than 1-2 OT shifts per pay period, if any.
It's hard to really say how the culture is in Reno. It really just depends on what you're into. If you like nightlife, there's plenty of that...lots of nightclubs and lounges. If you're into outdoors stuff, there's snowboarding, skiing, hiking - Lake Tahoe is close and is probably the most beautiful place I've been to in the US so far. The weather is nothing like Vegas...Reno is in northern NV and Vegas is a good 9hour drive to the south...winters are cold, sometimes it snows a lot, sometimes it doesn't....this year was mild before I left. Summers are hot, but not humid. Spring and Fall are pretty mild too. There's lots of restaurants and events throughout the year that are fun. But Reno isn't so large that it feels like a big city. If you live in Reno proper you can pretty much get to wherever you want to go in town within 20 minutes.
I recently moved back to WA state where I'm from to be closer to my family.