I actually said I was pretty sure you needed an RN and for your information a family member of mine is in the same situation as Spartan and there aren't any schools in this area that do not require an RN first! So instead of telling the world what IS how about tell them what is likely.
Also Just because you see PA's as doctor wannabes doesn't mean it's true.
Now to add to my answer to the OP.. Keep in mind the time it may take to get excepted. PA school might seem like a quicker route but in most schools they take only 30 people a semester out of hundreds of applicants. So you may not get in on the first try. So in the end NP may be the shorter route. I'm not sure how flexible you are when it comes to relocating as applying to more then one school would up your odds.
Also I'm not sure how set in stone this is and when you would be finishing your degree, but it has been spoken of around here that most NP's will require a Doctorate by 2015. Please ignore any posts stating that is mis information as I already said I'm not sure, but you can always look that stuff up yourself:)
One last thing to keep in mind, there are MSN programs that are NOT NP programs.
As for working independently, you should check your BON for the scope of practice for your area. Every state is different. Research areas you are interested in working in as well. It's my understanding that PA's get to work more in surgical settings in assisting the doc then NP's.