If you hate the idea of having to write another Personal Statement, please take some solace in the knowledge that you are not alone.
And, when you survey EM Residency Program Directors, they consider the Personal Statement to be one of the LEAST important factors in deciding to offer an interview and in determining rank list position for the match.
Most applicants invest far too much time into creating their Personal Statement, though a handful invest far too little.
If you are a great writer and can craft a moving piece that portrays the kind of physician you are going to become while not actually mentioning anything about medicine, then go for it. For a reviewer reading hundreds of Personal Statements in a short time, a creative and well written one can grab their attention in a most favorable way. Unfortunately, many attempts at getting creative with the Personal Statement fall flat. And even if it is truly great, the impact it will have on getting an interview is minimal.
For most people, this is a good time to play it safe and stick to a nice simple formula. Just answer the following questions:
- What drew you to Emergency Medicine?
- What experiences have you had that have prepared you for EM?
- What qualities do you possess that will make you an asset to a residency program?
- What are your goals for your EM training?
There is one way where a Personal Statement can be really important. If you have a "Red Flag" on your application, the Personal Statement is your best opportunity to address it. Most people screening your application for a possible interview will look to your Personal Statement to explain anything concerning they find in your transcript, Dean's Letter (MSPE), or CV. If the reviewer does not find an adequate explanation they are likely to screen your application out: no interview.
Take this opportunity to explain what happened and, more importantly, how you have learned and grown from your experience. If you can make a case for this experience leaving you better prepared for your a career in EM, that is even better.
Here is the single most important piece of advice for writing your Personal Statement:
Keep it under one page. No exceptions.You are applying to a specialty that prides itself on being fast-paced and able to focus on the most important details. This is an opportunity to show your ability to deliver information concisely.
Lastly, have someone else read your personal statement. You may not notice grammatical errors after being so familiar with it. And use that spell check. Not taking the 2 seconds to click the spell check button is a bad sign for your attention to detail. Emergency Physicians aim to be efficient, not sloppy.
For more on the Personal Statement:
Everyone is standing and waiting. It feels like an eternity. Finally the horn sounds and the race begins. Everyone jumps into the water to start swimming. At first, it seems like complete chaos as hundreds of swimmers are in the water starting their journey. Soon each person will find his own pace, and the group will move from the water onto land, to their bicycles, then on to the final run.
A triathlon is a unique race, since it encompasses three distinct skill sets: swimming, cycling, and running. In order to cross the finish line, you have to be able to do all three. I look at emergency medicine a lot like a triathlon. The emergency physician must be able to handle a variety of problems. In fact, this is what interests me most about being an emergency medicine physician – you are trained to take care of the patient no matter what the injury or condition.
Looking back at my clinical rotations, I realized the part I enjoyed the most was my time in the emergency department. I liked being one of the first responders to the patient, thinking on my feet, and collecting evidence in order to diagnose. The adrenaline rush of not knowing what was coming next was unlike any other experience in my clinical rotations.
I have seen the emergency department in a variety of settings: during my Emergency Medicine rotation and from a research perspective. I conducted research on sound levels in the department and their correlation with patient care. I was there when it was quiet, and when there were multiple traumas and reports of more en route over the intercom. The Emergency Department can change from calm to chaotic within a matter of minutes, and it is important that the physician be able to react and respond accordingly.
I believe I possess these necessary skills after seeing myself handle my emergency medicine rotation and surgical trauma nights. On these rotations, I learned how important it is to have a vast foundation of knowledge for quick decision-making and to diagnose or rule out possibilities. I know I have much more to learn, but with time I know I am capable of mastering the skills I need to be able to lead a team when the situation arises. I feel working in the Emergency Department is much like being on the second leg of a triathlon. When you are cycling, you are on edge and focused as another cyclist could break away from the group or crash in front of you. You must be able to react within seconds to the changing environment around you.
After residency, I would like to practice emergency medicine in a rural medical center. During my fourth year, I had the opportunity to take a wilderness medicine course, which involved a week in Yosemite National Park. This course gave me exposure to unique medical emergencies not normally seen in regular emergency departments. It also solidified my interest in practicing in an area where I would be able to treat patients with a vast array of injuries. Following that, I hope to work for an academic center. I enjoy teaching, and working for an academic hospital would allow me to pass along knowledge to future generations.
As graduation nears, I can’t help but compare the excitement I am experiencing the pre-race jitters most triathletes encounter. I am eagerly waiting for that “horn” to blare so I can begin the race I hope to call Emergency Medicine.