Isn't writing NP program admissions essays the worst? The vague, nuanced questions leave you wondering what exactly faculty are looking to see in your responses. You must walk the fine line between bragging about your accomplishments and seeming like your credentials are lacking. You know you have overcome some challenge or obstacle in life, but of course can't think of it when you sit down to draft your admissions app.
While writing your NP program admissions essays can seem like a daunting task, there are a few things nurse practitioner programs consistently look for in your responses. And, there are a few common red flags admissions faculty notice that can land your app squarely in the recycle bin. What common mistakes should you avoid in writing your NP program admissions essays and personal statements?
1. A misguided perception of the nurse practitioner career
The number one, numero uno, highest priority, top thing admissions staff are looking to see in your personal statement and other application essay responses is that you understand the nurse practitioner role. If you mention you want to become a nurse practitioner because you "couldn't get into medical school", you won't be accepted to an NP program either.
Your personal statement and essay responses must show that you understand what nurse practitioners do on a day to day basis and how they fit into the healthcare system as a whole. If you aren't quite sure exactly how NP's fit in or what the nurse practitioner career looks like, job shadow an NP before drafting your response. Also, be sure your stated career goals match the specialty to which you are applying. Don't state you want to work in the ICU when applying to a Family Nurse Practitioner program. Your career plans and personal statement must be aligned.
2. Drama, drama, drama
Kim Hammonds, an admissions faculty member from Trevecca University, informed me in an interview a few months ago that personal statements have gotten a bit crazy lately. "It seems someone out there is advising students to tell dramatic stories in their personal statements" she said. "We don't want drama, we want to see the real you" she continued.
In drafting your personal statement you must walk the fine line of informing admissions faculty of your experience and qualifications while maintaining honesty. You must detail personal and professional goals while being practical. Even if the biggest challenge you have overcome in life is managing to live with a roommate who refuses to clean out the fridge or dealing with a drunk sorority sister, choose something more relevant to discuss on your application. Talk about past work experiences and how they have prepared you for the rigors of a nurse practitioner program. Treat your NP program application as you would a job application.
3. Cutting yourself short
Extracurricular experiences won't secure your admission to a nurse practitioner program quite like grades and GRE scores, but they certainly can help. Presenting these activities in a way that makes them relevant to your goal of becoming a nurse practitioner will boost your credentials even further. Pointing out that you were in a sorority on your application, for example, means nothing to admissions faculty. Outlining that you managed a substantial budget and lead the planning of multiple social and charity events every year including lining up vendors and delegating to other sorority members gives your experience some cred in the eyes of admissions staff.
Give your extracurricular activities some oomph on your app by mentioning the specific management and leadership skills they entailed. This way, you draw the connection to how your experiences, although sometimes seemingly insignificant, are helping you achieve your ultimate goals.
4. Neglecting to edit
Even if you have put together the perfect personal statement, have years of nursing experience, and once volunteered with AIDS orphans in the Peace Corps, nothing will ruin your nurse practitioner application quite like sloppiness. Graduate programs are writing-intensive. If your essay responses are crap, admissions staff will seriously doubt your ability to succeed in graduate school. Nothing will have a skinny envelope from your NP program of choice on its way to your mailbox quicker than bad grammar, punctuation mistakes, and a poorly written essay. Read and re-read your essay responses. Have a friend or family member go over them as well. Taking time on your essays and editing them to perfection will be worth the effort.
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I'm applying to go to the nurse practitioner program this coming fall and would like some feedback on my application essay.
The questions I need to address:
1) What is your motivation for wanting to become a PHCNP?
2a) What professional and personal attributes from your work and/or academic background do you bring to the PHCNP program?
2b) How are these attributes relevant to your future role as a PHCNP in the health care delivery system?
3) Please describe your understanding of primary health care. How are NPs important in the delivery of primary health care to diverse populations?
(Replies must be typed and not to exceed 4 pages double spaced, 12 point font print in total. Only the first 4 pages will be read. Replies to each question need not be of equal length. Number your answers to correspond to the questions).
1) I plan to broaden my scope of practice and comprehension as a registered nurse in order to play a larger role in determining and managing care for my clients. I enjoy the concept of increased responsibility associated with being a nurse practitioner. I wish to help further preventative health care in the community through support and education as my main interests lie in primary health care, community health care, and geriatric health. Becoming a nurse practitioner can help me to provide my clients with more individual attention, encouragement and incorporation of their disease into their individual lifestyle. I enjoy patient consistency. It allows me to develop a greater rapport with my clients, which helps me to develop a more in depth plan of care for client specific needs as I have a greater knowledge about their personal health history, attributes, and ability to manage their illness.
I strive to become more knowledgeable in nursing in order to provide the best care I can to my clients. In order to excel at my profession and passion I need to do everything I can to make myself better. "Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work... You have to fall in love with your work... You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably" (2).
I enjoy how being a nurse doesn't just stop at my job. I am proud how my knowledge of health care can help people outside the clinical setting such as my family, friends and co workers. I can provide advice and direction when they are having difficulties with their health and well-being. Expanding my knowledge also affects my own personal wellness and allows me to be more attuned to my own needs and the ability to make healthy decisions and lifestyle choices.
My interest in health care was due to my father who was a chiropractor in my home town. When it came time to apply for university I had difficulty picking which field of health care I wished to dedicate myself to. It was my father who suggested becoming a nurse. He told me the health care system could always use more nurses, as they were the backbone of patient care. He stated there were many areas of nursing I could practice in, however, if I wanted to play a larger role in the management and determining of patient care I should look into becoming a nurse practitioner.
I first completed a honor's bachelor degree in science, specializing in genetics with a minor in biochemistry at McMaster University. I loved biology and the physiology and anatomy of the human body. I felt this degree gave me a great basis in which to build my nursing knowledge on when I got in to Western University's school of nursing in 2006.
When I was in my community health and long term care placements during my first two years of Western I was asking myself, "How can anyone wish to work in these areas?" I had visions of working in an acute care setting in a fast paced environment full of top of the line technology and a multitude of other health care professionals. It wasn't until my placement on the nephrology unit at Victoria Hospital, in 4th year of nursing that I started to realize that acute care may not be my area of passion. I enjoyed forming rapport with my patients and getting to know them on a detailed basis, something that was difficult with high turnover. When caring for my patients, the amount of health care teaching that was needed was enormous. Care plans that came easily to myself and the other hospital staff were very difficult for patients to grasp due to their lifestyle, ability to access resources, and background knowledge on their diseases and diagnoses. Patients would be discharged after receiving a short information session about their updated medication list, follow up appointments and summary of what was done for them during their stay. I found myself wondering afterwards if they were following the advice and plan of care that had been provided to them, and if our health teaching was viable in their home life given any restrictions or barriers they faced.
2a) I've worked in long term care since graduating in April 2010. This has allowed me to be in a supervisory position. I direct health care aides and registered practical nurses in the management and delivery of personalized care to our residents.
I've very adaptive to new technology such as programs used for online documentation and electronic MARS. Other registered staff in my facility often come to me for problem solving and trouble shooting with our online documentation program.
The health care aides I supervise have described me as being very compassionate, intelligent and empathetic. I always put residents first and I take the time to listen to residents, no matter how busy my schedule may be. I work well under pressure and in a solo or team environment.
2b) To be successful as a nurse practitioner I need to be able to be a strong leader, knowledgeable and adaptive to the ever changing health care environment and needs of my clients. The amount of diverse clients in health care today is only getting larger with our aging population and the baby boomers, more young adults with mental illnesses, and greater amount of clients with cultural differences and beliefs.
After expressing my professional goals to others, I'm often asked why I want to bother with the extra time, expense, and workload involved in achieving a master's degree and working as a nurse practitioner. I inform them that I want to better myself as a registered nurse and as a person, to commit myself to my profession as much as I can. In turn I can then pass on my knowledge and skills to others around me and help build a better community as a whole. I believe that a strong and prosperous community is only as good as its health and education and I wish to do as much contribution as I can towards this.
3) Primary health care incorporates the traditional health care system with an extended approach and spectrum of services that focuses on all factors that can impact a client's wellness.
Nurse practitioners are important in the delivery of primary health care as they are a leading service in the promotion of health and wellness through health education. They are flexible to the needs of their clients, they are able to see them in acute care settings, clinical offices, or even able to make house calls if required. I work alongside a nurse practitioner whose knowledge base, resources, and dedication to her craft encompasses everything that I've envisioned a nurse practitioner to be and that I wish to become. Watching her work with our residents, providing them with support and education about their illnesses and helping them with their concerns is very inspiring.
In closing, I will continue to strive to better myself as a person and as a professional nurse and I continue to dedicate myself to achieving the best possible care I can for those in need. As sung by Paul Brandt, "don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon" (1).
Thank you for your time and consideration.
1) Brandt, Paul. "There's A World Out There." That's The Truth. Reprise Records, 1999. CD.
2) Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Dir. David Gelb. 2011. Netflix. Web. Magnolia Pictures, 14 December 2013.
Thank you for any feedback!