My “Personal Statement” for Residency (And Tips for yours!)
It’s that time of year again! The ERAS application opening date is looming and by now many of our 4th year applicants are starting to work on or even finalize their personal statement. To many, this is one of the most challenging aspects of the application. What in the world do I write about? How do I talk about myself? Do I make it flashy or boring? What should I include?
I wrote my personal statement in August 2012. I didn’t know the answers to those questions then. I still have no idea. I don’t really know what residencies want in these things. I don’t think most of them even know what they want and it definitely varies from place to place. BUT they all do know a really good one when they see it, and even easier a really bad one as well. Don’t be a bad one. Bad personal statements are full of grammatical errors, arrogant, attempt to be too flashy, simply repeat the CV, or are full or exaggerations/lies.
A good personal statement should complement your CV. It should in your words be able to show your personality and your desire to go into your chosen specialty. It should give examples of the what and the why – why do you care about patients, what do you like about your specialty. And unless you are a very good writer (I’m certainly not), it should probably be a touch boring. I decided to add a clinical scenario to add some excitement and explain my draw to anesthesia, but other than that I kept it simple. It talks about mostly why I’m interested in anesthesia, tells a little bit about my personality, and ends with what I’m looking for and what I will bring to a residency. I wrote it in a weekend, then edited it for about a week. I had my sister-in-law, with her degree in English, proof read it twice. And that’s it. My personal statement likely didn’t get placed on the top of the pile, but I felt it complimented my application and certainly didn’t hurt me.
I applied to anesthesia residency and thus also needed a transitional year/preliminary year application as well. These are separate applications and can be separate personal statements. I choose not re-write my statement, but I did alter the end to make it more suiting for those programs. That’s a fair balance I felt.
And here is my personal statement, as it was the day I submitted it in 2012.
Charles Cochran, IU School of Medicine
Before I had even applied to medical school, I had serious interest in becoming an anesthesiologist. Like many who go into the field, my original interest was peaked by my fascination with the phenomenal bio-chemical processes that are undergone each second in the human body. Throughout my undergraduate experience and completion of a chemistry degree, my interest in these processes continued to bring forward thoughts of a career in anesthesiology. However, several defining moments during medical school locked into my mind a definite desire to pursue anesthesia.
The moment I became set on anesthesia was during my ten-day anesthesia rotation at Riley Children’s Hospital. A young patient had been put under and was suddenly not responding well. Her blood pressure was severely depressed and perfusion had become so poor that the pulse oximeter was no longer able to detect saturation or heart rate. Once the severity of the situation was realized, many in the OR became obviously anxious and frantic – but not the anesthesiologist running the case. As the surgeons stepped away from the table, the anesthesiologist, cool and calm, began directing people to various interventions. I was instructed to begin syringing in tube after tube of albumin. Running through various algorithms of treatment, the anesthesiologist was able to stabilize the patient and slowly the tension would leave the operating room. However, my awe of the calculated job the anesthesiologist had just completed would stay with me. The very basics of critical care – the “ABCs” of lifesaving – are the very skills which anesthesiologists are taught to master, even under great pressure. This truly inspired me to want to be the best at those “ABCs” that sound so simple, yet are so intimidating to many in the medical field. The fundamentals of lifesaving paired with the “hands on” procedural approach to medicine in anesthesia solidified my desire to pursue this career.
While a passion to thrive in critical care situations certainly makes me a good candidate for anesthesia, there are several other characteristics I discovered during my 4th year anesthesia sub-I that I feel will make me a great anesthesiologist. Organization and order, once a simple quirk to my personality, suddenly became one of my greatest strengths in the OR. Additionally, I have never been the type of medical student to sit in the corner and watch during my clerkships. I took great pleasure in assisting the nurses in the little tasks of patient transport or preparation and OR set up, which I’m proud to say seemed to make me a popular medical student to have around with the great nursing staff I’ve worked with. Likewise, whether it be organizing the various lines, tubes, and syringes of the current case, completing the required charting, or setting up for the next case, my hands were never idle. I couldn’t believe how fast the days would go and how much I would look forward to coming back into the hospital the next morning!
While medical school can teach a student the science behind medicine, I truly believe it is a doctor’s personality and character that ultimately determines his or her success with patients. One of my greatest qualities that will make me a sucessful anesthesiologist is my ability to quickly connect with people. At an orientation lecture on making first impressions early in my first clinical year, a speaker discussed how in general, anesthesiologists are among the best at making great first impressions. Hearing this was like a light bulb going off! Patients always seem to fear going to sleep more than the actual surgeons knife. Yet, an anesthesiologist may have but just a few moments pre-op to relax and instill confidence in their patients. What a challenging but impressive skill! Since that orientation, I have prided myself on mastering how quickly I can earn a patient’s trust. Enjoying the challenge of making a great first impression in the shortest amount of time is among the most important reasons that have guided me into the specialty of anesthesiology.
My goal during this application process is to find a residency program that puts an emphasis on broad types of clinical experience, so that I may one day enter practice with the confidence to tackle any case that may come my direction. Being from a small town in southern Indiana, eventually I would very much enjoy someday practicing in a community-based setting in a mid-sized city that would feel much like home. While impossible to know the future, I am excited about the direction the field of anesthesia can take me. With that said, I promise to bring a strong work ethic, open mind, and friendly, easy-going demeanor to all the opportunities that lie ahead of me.
For Transitional Year and Preliminary programs – replaces last paragraph with this one.
While it is true that no student grows up dreaming of being a “transitional year” doctor, I have high expectations for my intern year and believe I will be a great asset to whichever program I end up at. While I may only be there a year, I’m looking for a place that will challenge and teach me as if I were a permanent part of their program. My greatest strength for my intern year is a skill I’ve realized through a particularly reoccurring compliment received during my various medicine rotations. This is the ability to be complete but concise, and especially efficient in the way at which I present and manage my patients. While impossible to know the future, I am excited about the direction the field of medicine can take me. With that said, I promise to bring a strong work ethic, open mind, and friendly, easy-going demeanor to all the opportunities that lie ahead of me.
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