Minty, I will try to answer your questions...
I believe an A&P course from a community college would be sufficient. There are a lot of CNLs that come into the program with non-science bachelor degrees, so I'm sure many took an A&P course through a community college.
And you are correct that a CNL will enter the nursing profession as an entry-level nurse. However, from what I understand, some hospitals across the country have created specific CNL positions for CNL grads where others have not. It is my understanding that with a CNL degree you will be able to move up the clinical ladder faster than a bachelor's prepared or associates nurse.
I think where the CNL differs from the BSN or ADN nurse is that the CNL takes a lot of courses in leadership studying work environment, horizontal leadership, team leading, costs/benefits, etc. The program focuses on the overall profession of nursing & looks beyond the skills needed to perform bedside care to include: the overall healthcare system (Medicare/Medicaid); nurse-to-patient ratios; the benefits of Magnet status; the current problems in nursing; and prepares the CNL to take a more progressive stance in patient care and the overall effectiveness of healthcare systems.
The CNL Program is hard work & keeps you busy. The greatest benefit is that you are 1:1 with a preceptor (a nurse) working on the floor you are assigned for each clinical rotation. In addition, in the final spring & summer semester you complete a 500 hour practicum/project in an area of your choice. It is this 1:1, 500 hour practicum that gives you an edge over the BSN & ADN prepared nurse. It is the school of nursing's hope that you will know what area of nursing you would like to go into & that this practicum will prepare you to be able to be a leader in that field when you come out of the program. However, even if you don't know which area of nursing you want to go into by then, it will still be beneficial.
As far as my classmates' backgrounds, we have 5 or so Returning Peace Corps Volunteers, some individuals with history degrees, an ex-NASA employee, some people who worked as PCAs/Care Partners/EMTs prior to the program...it's really an array of backgrounds/ages/undergrad degrees. Interestingly, half of my classmates already had master's degrees. I, personally, had an undergrad degree in Kinesiology/Psychology, experience in volunteer Fire/EMS, & worked as a Care Partner at MCV/VCU Medical Center. I think working in a hospital/in the pre-hospital field prior to the program certainly has its advantages.
As far as required work experience, I believe you just have to have some form of healthcare-related experience...could be volunteering in a hospital, nursing home, medical clinic in another country, helping with the care of a family member, etc. etc.
You can PM me if you have any other questions.