Hello to a fellow redhead,
I agree with lc3 that "what it takes to get in" varies from school to school, depending on how popular the school is (and thus how large/competitive the applicant pool is) and what the school's values are.
I will be attending Johns Hopkins direct entry program this summer, and I don't have as much health care work or volunteer experience as lc3...the only "direct care" experience I have was from when I worked at a psych hospital for a semester (5 months).
I had a couple significant volunteer/leadership roles during college (which was a couple years ago), but they weren't health related (although they did serve the community in other ways). I also did volunteer research at a hospital for 2 semesters (helped two docs collect/analyze their data).
Just about the time I started applying to schools
last year I started volunteering at a hospital, so I had only been doing that a few months by the time my nursing school
apps were in.
I've had two year's work experience, in two different hospital-based behavioral research positions, that involve patient interaction but not patient care.
If there is a magic formula for admissions, I haven't figured it out yet...Obvioulsly they take many other things besides work/volunteer experience into consideration. I imagine that schools want to see that you have at least been exposed to nursing/healthcare in some way or another, so you know what you are getting into. I think it is probably important that you can speak passionately about your interest in the field in your essays and interviews, and back it up with experiences you've had (personal or professional).