I don't see anything wrong with your plan. As far as the experience thing, I don't think it's 100% necessary, but I definitely think that it's highly, highly beneficial. I work in the ED department as a NP, and I had previously worked there as a nurse for 5 years. Because of all of my experience as a nurse, the transition was very smooth. I knew our hospital's formulary (I knew what antibiotics we have, what pain meds, which steroids, etc.) so I knew what I could and couldn't order. I knew what services we have available and when (not able to do venous dopplers at certain times, etc.), I know what doctors are on call, which ones are likely to admit, which are gonna ive us trouble, etc. I was able to move into the role so much more smoothly than many of the new PA's that hadn't worked there previously as a nurse, because I knew the system and how everything worked, and it didn't hurt already having a good reltionship with all the docs and the other providers when I needed help or had questions.
As far as pay goes, I think it's different as far as how pay compares to nursing in different areas. Where I work, it's well worth it. Around where I trained, went to school, worked as a nurse, and lived there is a very, very significant difference in pay. I make well over double what I made as a nurse and have the potential to make even more by working a few extra shifts here and there (should make well into the six figures this year, my first year, as an NP). I know in some areas of the country, nurses may make that, but I worked as an ER nurse for 5 years and never made more than 45k in one year. Not only do I make double that just with my contracted hours, the company I work for pays my malpractice insurance, gives me a few thousand for continuing education expenses, and offers medical and dental insurance. I also get the opportunity to work extra shifts, and sometimes if they need someone will offer double pay for a shift or two! The only problem is with a job like mine is the hours. I work 12 hour shifts, and until they hired new people and I got seniority, I was working nights (until 2 or 3 am).
Anyway, I love the autonomy, and the respect that I get. I love the fact I make more money. Pretty much, I love being an NP. I liked being a nurse, but after a while, I got to a point I just got tired of doing what everybody told me to do, and I wanted to be able to make decisions, and interpret labs, and formulate diagnoses. I still get to help people, and I get paid more for doing it. I do recommend experience, but for the outstanding student, I don't think it should necessarily be a requirement, but it does help. Some things you just don't learn in a textbook, like being able to identify a "really sick" patient. With experience, you can just look at a patient and know. Okay, I'm rambling. Anyway, I highly recommend the NP route. As far as pay different, see what you can find out for your area, but for me and all of my fellow students, the pay they are making is significantly more than they made as a nurse.