Writing your personal statement
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
I like to write, but writing a personal statement isn’t exactly my idea of fun.
It’s August, which means that many of you out there are starting to write your personal statements for residency or medical school applications. If you are struggling with where to start, don’t fret. Take your time, make a list of points you want to highlight, and tackle the personal statement little by little.
This is not something you should finish in one day. The personal statement takes time, reflection, and editing… lots of editing. You should think about having 2-4 editors, of different backgrounds.But remember that regardless of what your editors say, you should stay true to your heart and the points you want to convey.
At my residency graduation, one year ago, excerpts from our personal statements were read aloud by our department chair, and honestly it was hard to recognize which was mine.
I think that means… the personal statement won’t define you 😉
I mean, it will, for a minute, because those reading it don’t know you, but keep in mind there’s much more to the application, and YOU.
So anyways, get your popcorn out, prop your feet up, and enjoy reading my attempt at a personal statement, circa 2012.
I make sure my phone is on airplane mode every time I fly. This is none other than to have my medical applications ready in case I need to spring into action. Does reviewing my ACLS algorithm while I’m exercising or bored make me neurotic, a nerdy medical student, or both? Most of my rescue scenarios involve myself saying something completely dramatic like “1mg of Epi STAT”, or “get the paddles, is everyone clear”?
Despite this habit, it surprisingly took me three years of medical school to realize that I loved and was a perfect match for Emergency Medicine. Even without the drama of an immediate emergency like those I have conjured in my head, the emergency room is a place that I see opportunity. Opportunity for variety and for a chance to be the very first clinician to speak with a patient, give a diagnosis, counsel a family, or provide hope.
My ability to multitask fits well in the ER, as on a normal basis I divide time between school, dance, volleyball, cooking, yoga, ultrasound, and being a dog owner. I have never been good at choosing one hobby or interest, but am thrilled by attempting to participate and succeed at many. Throughout these activities I have learned how to excel in teamwork and strive to be the member that others are thankful to depend on and work with.
If a disaster struck, I would be a valuable team member to have on hand. My time spent thinking through emergency scenarios makes me prepared for the undifferentiated patient, while my experience with multitasking makes me physically and mentally capable of handling multiple problems simultaneously. I frequently reflect on one of my first days in the ER, early in medical school. I volunteered to help with a young patient who was involved in a severe trauma. As I ventilated and consoled the patient, the nurse offered to take over; but I couldn’t pull myself away. I felt fearless, and all I could focus on was helping in any way I could contribute. Today, I approach every patient with a confident, fearless yet humble attitude knowing that it can truly affect each patient’s respect and level of trust in myself as a physician.
Establishing rapport with a patient quickly is important in the ED and I am able to do this through empathy for the patient’s situation and reassurance. This was evidenced to me through a recent interaction with a patient and his wife who was in for a minor complaint. In the 15 minutes I had with the patient, I could not offer them anything other than pain control. However as I said goodbye the patient stated I would make a great doctor simply for being kind and focused from my first steps into the room until my final steps out.
A positive relationship with the staff involved in patient care is very important to me. I love working with physician assistants, nurses, and EMS and I will strive to give them the opportunity to provide ideas and opinions. During EMS rides as a medical student I was able to receive teaching on the pre-hospital process and provide teaching on clinical decision making in a symbiotic fashion. My interest for the future involves teaching in a pre-hospital or academic setting. I look forward to sharing the education that I have received with patients and other healthcare workers, both with a similar goal of improving acute patient care.
Diagnosis of the undifferentiated patient in Emergency Medicine is an art that I am excited to master. My consistent preparation combined with resilience and drive will allow me to provide meticulous, competent care in an acute setting as an Emergency Medicine physician.
Cue the applause
Nothing ground breaking right? This baby took me over a month to write!
So for those of you out there, struggling through your personal statements, just write from the heart, be truthful to yourself, and remember that the personal statement isn’t the only part of your application!
Take these basic steps when starting your personal statement:
- Don’t force it (that is super obvious)
- Do bits and pieces at a time, as they come to you
- Don’t feel pressure to write from start to finish, piecemeal together thoughts as they come
- Ask your family and friends what they feel you should highlight, what are the qualities that you possess, that are important to get across to someone who doesn’t know you
- Start early (so you can follow all of the above steps and not feel pressure or rushed)!
Hopefully you all feel a little bit better after reading my fairly basic personal statement, that took me months to write! 🙂 You’re not alone. Keep pushing on and before you know it, you’ll never have to write a personal statement again!