When preparing to apply to a graduate nursing program, there are many requirements and submission guidelines to remember. The component that allows you to tell your unique story — your personal statement — is one of the most important.
Writing a compelling personal statement for an MSN program, like the Nursing@Simmons online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program, takes time and can be challenging for some applicants. Just as a poorly written essay can hinder your chances of acceptance, a great one can set you apart from other applicants. Below are three steps to writing a personal statement that will make a positive impression on any admissions committee.
1. Plan Your Story
Very few people can sit down at a keyboard and craft the perfect personal statement without preparation. It may take several weeks of thinking about how to communicate your story, so give yourself plenty of time to plan, jot down thoughts, and make an outline as ideas come to you. Use the following tips to gather the information you’ll need to create an excellent statement.
- Consider how your work experience as a registered nurse (RN) has influenced you and shaped your goals for the future. How will an advanced education promote your professional growth and help you transition into the role of an FNP?
- Think beyond your resume. What traits, strengths, and accomplishments aren’t captured there? Consider your interests, including how they will contribute to your success in the program. Provide examples of nursing goals, leadership, mentorship, or growth you have accomplished or experienced. Write these down and keep them in mind as you begin your draft.
- Choose appropriate topics for your statement. Avoid soapbox issues, and don’t preach to your reader. This kind of statement can come across as condescending and obscure the point you’re trying to make.
- Research the program. Make sure you understand the school’s values and reputation. Do they align with yours? How so?
2. Create Your Draft
- When it is time to start putting your thoughts on paper, try to avoid overthinking your work. Strive for a natural voice. Pretend you are talking to a friend and write without fear — you can edit and polish your piece to perfection in the next stage.
- Avoid cliches and nursing generalities. Generic descriptors, such as “caring,” “compassionate,” “people person,” and “unique,” have been so often overused that they no longer carry much weight with an admissions committee. They also don’t address your personal experience in the nursing sphere. Try not to start your story with phrases like “for as long as I can remember” or your audience may stop reading.
- Show, don’t tell. Strong storytelling is grounded in personal details that illustrate who you are, both as a nurse and a person. Be specific by describing how many patients you managed, how you earned promotions, or a time when your supervisor praised your professionalism and clinical abilities. Here are examples that illustrate the difference between telling and showing:
“I perform well under pressure.”
“Although my patient arrived for a different ailment, I suspected that her symptoms were consistent with a serious infection. As a result, I was able to advocate for a care plan that prevented further damage.”
- Use specific examples when talking about your experience with direct patient care and evidence-based practice. Provide details about how your clinical experiences have demonstrated patient advocacy, leadership, communication, or confidence.
- Discuss how earning a Master of Science in Nursing aligns with your career plans and why you want to become a FNP. Explain that you understand the commitment required and that you have the skills and dedication to become an FNP. Be sure to let the admissions committee know why you are choosing their program and what makes their program stand apart from the rest. Reflect on the school and program research you did during your planning stage.
3. Edit and Perfect
Even the best writers have to edit and polish their work. Reviewing and revising your personal statement ensures that the piece is clear, organized, and free of errors.
- Once you have written your first draft, take a break and distance yourself from your work. This will allow you to return to the draft with a clear head to review objectively and spot potential issues and errors.
- Read your statement aloud. Does it sound like you? Does it reflect your best qualities and the strengths you’ll bring to a nursing program?
- Take great care to submit a statement that is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Even minor mistakes can make you look careless. Multiple errors could indicate to the admissions committee that you are disorganized or not taking the application process seriously. Here are some tools and tips to help you present a perfect piece of writing:
- Always use spell check on your essay, but be careful as it won’t catch every spelling error.
- Use a grammar editing tool, such as Grammarly.
- Ask a friend, family member, or mentor to review your statement. This is a great way to catch errors or awkward phrasing that you may have missed.
Your nursing personal statement should be a window into your life. Use it to share specific experiences that have influenced your decision to advance your nursing education. Adhering to professional standards and presenting yourself in a positive, open, and honest way will help the admissions committee determine your fit and future in an FNP program.
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!