I would tell them that it's a lot of work, a lot of effort, but it is the best ride of their life. Yes, they are going to have to read more than they ever thought possible. They are going to have to decline a lot of invitations while in school. Their lives as they knew it are over. They are going to have to wipe up every type of liquids imaginable from all sorts of bodily functions. They are going to see people at their best and at their worst and all in between.
But, it's going to be one of the best experiences of their lives. And, in the end, they will see what ever it took to get them through, on their graduation day, they will fondly recall all the horrors and joys. Orientation is the beginning of a brand new world for them. Nursing school is a privilege and a blessing. It's short. It's hard. It's so cool to be there and help folks get better. To watch them leave the hospital, to watch someone finally get pain relieved or to even zip up the body bag is an honor. It brings about feelings where you know you are in the right place and you are starting the career of a life time.
It's a blast. Getting an IV started for the first time! Getting the NG tube placed right the first time! As I graduate in less than a week, there have been many highlights for doing the procedures properly, but most of it is having a connection to the patients.
I'll never forget my first patient ever. She was this elderly African American woman. I took care of her all day. We only had one patient. I washed her feet, put lotion on them. I helped her pay her light bill over the phone. I took her calls and spoke to her sons. She had a husband and 5 boys. I saw some of the boys while taking care of her. As I was leaving for the night, I finally told her that she was my first patient ever. I didn't want her to know how scared I was doing her vitals and all the rest with a real live patient. So, I said, "Mrs. R, I want you to know that you were my first patient. I want to thank you for letting me work with you. It was an honor." She looked at me and she said, "Oh my gosh, what did you say? I heard you say that I was your first? Honey, I have never, ever been first my whole life."
Needless to say, she gave me goosebumps and I was crying when I left. I couldn't say anything else to her for the big lump in my throat. I'm not one to cry at anything and this fine woman just broke me.
It truly was something that touched me so deep down since I know that woman did everything for her husband and her boys. And, she was right, she probably had never, ever been first at anything. Mentally, I saw her making dinner and saw that the boys had probably finished it before she even got to sit down. I saw her working so hard for her family that her own needs were last down a long list of things to do for others before her self. So, that one time where I could help her be first meant a lot to me.
Nursing school isn't brimming over with moments like that, but for the few moments where you sit back and say, hey, you know what, for all the late nights, for all the crap I have to wipe, learn and put up with from the school, the nurses on the floor who don't want us, the teachers, the long papers filled with asinine nursing diagnoses and all the rest, yeah, I would not have given this up for anything.
So, find a story, find something that makes all the scary stuff go away. Make them find their heart and the reason that they applied in the first place. Give them a part of you that shows why you do what you do. Inspire them.
Good luck. You'll rock it!