Over at Inside PA Training Paul wrote a wonderful blog post about the common pitfalls that many PA school applicants fall victim to while preparing their PA school essay.
Common Physician Assistant Essay Pitfalls
- Lack of specificity
- Weak conclusion
- No theme
- Boring introduction
This is an excellent list because several years ago while I was applying to PA school, I proved how adhering to each one of these elements was a guaranteed formula for failure.
I wrote a blog post a while back about how to get into the PA school of your choice. Part of my recommendation was to throw caution to the wind and apply with your heart and not your mind. This, as you know, is easier said than done.
Every one of the above pitfalls is what happens when you “think” too much.
The Six Hundred Words (or less) that Changed my Life
I applied to five PA schools in 2001 (prior to The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).
First, I used an essay that I thought gave the review committee everything they would need to see that I was a stellar applicant. It showed my strengths, brown-nosed a bit, and proved that I had the pedigree to be a wonderful healthcare provider.
But, as you will see, it lacked heart, honesty, passion, and most of all . . . grit.
I received my fourth rejection letter as I was completing my application for the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ). I was demoralized.
That night I sat down at my computer and composed what would become the 600 words that changed my life forever. I had not read them for over 11 years until this morning.
I had never taken the time to go back and see what made the difference. What had made the essay I sent to UMDNJ different from the previous four flops? I was thinking about this list of essay pitfalls this morning and decided to go back and see if I could find my original essays. I was delighted to find all of them, they brought back strong feelings and wonderful memories.
I am going to share with you both essays. The one that worked, the one that didn't, and I want you to guess the winner. Avoid the urge to reveal the answer, reading through both essays will help you as you sit down to write your personal statement.
When I applied to UMDNJ (Rutgers) I was 0.1 points below the minimum GPA requirement to even consider sending an application. The fact that they opened my application and offered me an interview was a miracle. Yet, I was admitted just a week after my trip to New Jersey.
Where were those other 4.0 Ivy leaguers I met during my interview? They were placed on the waiting list.
I am not trying to gloat, but I want to point out that the essay may be the single most important thing you do. It is the reason I was accepted to PA school.The most extraordinary stories come out of things grounded in the ordinaryClick To Tweet
Two PA School Applications Essays: Why Do You Want To Be a PA-C?
PA School Essay # 1
Why Do You Want to Be a Physician Assistant?
Every day is a gift to be embraced wholeheartedly. It is our job to fill that day with a hopeful and meaningful purpose. It has been said that “the most important thing in life is to live your life for something more important than your life” William James. It is deeply rooted in this philosophy that I desire to become a physician assistant (PA). I hope to provide quality healthcare to the underprivileged, an area of medicine, which I have noted to be dramatically underserved.
I became involved in health care four years ago to help finance my college education. I worked as a medical record clerk in the University of Washington health clinic. In addition to delivering medical records, I assisted the hospital staff in a variety of activities. I loved working with the staff and admired how well they operated as a team. I desired more direct patient care and in January 1998, when a student position opened in the lab, I jumped at the opportunity. In a few weeks, I was drawing blood, interacting with patients, and helping with a variety of technical procedures. I loved what I was doing. The patients were often uneasy when facing a needle for the first time. I was able to comfort them, help them to smile, and ease their nervous tensions. My job required that I work throughout the various University hospitals. This provided an opportunity to work within a variety of settings, and with people of all ages. Whether it was doing morning rounds in labor and delivery or working in the campus health clinic, one thing always remained the same; I found great satisfaction in caring for patients and learning of their needs. I felt a career in medicine was truly for me.
While working at the clinic I discovered the PA profession. I have always enjoyed the complexities of science and have been fascinated by a career in medicine. In pursuit of this goal, I decided to speak with one of the resident doctors in the clinic. She introduced me to the role of Physician Assistant. After that, I immersed myself in research. I was surprised to learn that many people with whom I worked were Physician Assistants. I met with hospital staff, nurse practitioners, Physician Assistants, and physical therapists. I regularly visited the PA at the clinic and admired his significant level of patient interaction and his ability to work both autonomously and alongside other physicians and nurses. I admired the PA program’s flexibility and versatility, which would allow a change of specialties if I desired. I began to focus my attention on becoming a PA. Being an independent thinker, as well as a people-oriented individual; I feel that I am well suited, not just for a career in the medical field, but for a lifetime career as a Physician Assistant.
PA School Essay #2
Why Do You Want to Be a Physician Assistant?
As a child, every day, I would swing on the swing set in the backyard of my house. I would sit there for hours, without a care in the world simply singing songs and swinging back and forth. On that swing, I felt untouchable. Like a bird in flight, my only cares were that of the sky and the beauty of each adjoining minute. In the swing’s gentle motion, I was overcome with a sense of peace.
We wake one day and find that the swing no longer exists. Our backyard has been rebuilt and the ground, which had once supported our youth, has been transcended. We search again for the swing, longing to find a resemblance of that peace. We hope to find it each day, as the product of our life and of our career.
A woman smiled at me one day, her name was Margaret. The wrinkles on her face told a story and, in her hands, there played a motion picture. She sat crouched in a wheelchair; I sat on a stool beside her. I had been working as a phlebotomist in the University Clinic for two years. I was a friend of Margaret’s because every Wednesday at six she would arrive at the clinic for her routine blood work. Everybody liked Margaret; she used to tell us stories of her childhood and her husband who had given his life to the war. She had grown especially fond of me because “I had freckles like her grandson.” She used to come alone, but had grown weaker; this was the first time her daughter had accompanied her. Her daughter looked tired and spoke softly, “The best vein is in her hand” she explained, “it doesn’t hurt her there.” I gently placed my hand on hers, and it was cold. She looked to me and through the cold touch of her hand poured the warmth of her heart. “It’s about time for dinner don’t you think mom”, said her daughter. The clock rang six and I agreed. “The medicines have been making her sick; she sometimes has troubles keeping her food down.” I looked closely at her face; it was thin and drooped to her chest. I realized that Margaret was unable to speak. “Margaret, can you make a fist for me?” “Just like last time.” She clenched tightly. I withdrew the needle and collected a small sample of blood. She raised her head and with her frail hand, gently placed it on mine. I looked again to her eyes while placing a bandage on her hand. It was warm now. “Time for dinner mom”, replied her daughter. I smiled and waved goodbye “Margaret, I will see you again next week.” She raised her head and smiled. Without a word, she made perfect sense. I never saw Margaret again.
In the memory of Margaret and every patient who has individually touched my every day, I have regained a piece of the backyard swing that I loved so much as a child. I have been directly involved in health care for four years. Every day has brought great joy. To be a part of a person’s day is a wonderful blessing. Certainly, there are many pleasures in life. But, for me, none is greater than that which we find in the healing touch of another. As the eternal motion of the swing, it is in this that I find great peace.
Which essay is the one that got me an acceptance letter?
The difference: One is written from the heart, the other is full of clichés, lacks specificity, has no theme, has a boring introduction, and a weak conclusion!
The personal statement is a great way for you to really expand upon who you are, why you are interested in being a PA, how you got to this point, and why you think you are a good fit. It is an excellent opportunity to really speak about the person you are. Be honest - write it yourself! We do read these very carefully. - Elissa Love, BCM PA Program in Houston
As you sit down to write your PA school application essay remember this example.
In life, almost nothing ever goes to those who try to blend into the crowd. Your PA School application essay should be different, reflect who you really are, and not pander to what you think other people want to hear. This is a rule of thumb not just for your essay and for applying to PA school but for life in general.
As you write dig deep, don't hold back, and believe in your words. Set your noisy mind aside and try to find that place inside your head where your heart resides. This is where you will separate yourself from the crowd, this is where your journey to PA both begins and ends!
Bonus: PAEA Application Essay Do's and Don'ts
View all posts in this series
- How to Write the Perfect Physician Assistant School Application Essay
- The Physician Assistant Essay and Personal Statement Collaborative
- Do You Recognize These 7 Common Mistakes in Your Personal Statement?
- Prerequisite Coursework: How to Design the Perfect Pre-PA School Curriculum
- Healthcare Experience Required for PA School: The Ultimate Guide
- 7 Essays in 7 Days: PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 1, “A PA Changed My Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 2, “I Want to Move Towards the Forefront of Patient Care”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 3, “She Smiled, Said “Gracias!” and Gave me a Big Hug”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 4, “I Have Gained so Much Experience by Working With Patients”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 5, “Then Reach, my Son, and Lift Your People up With You”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 6, “That First Day in Surgery was the First Day of the Rest of my Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 7, “I Want to Take People From Dying to Living, I Want to Get Them Down From the Cliff.”
- Physician Assistant Personal Statement Workshop: “To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement”
- 9 Simple Steps to Avoid Silly Spelling and Grammar Goofs in Your PA School Personel Statement
- 5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay (and why you should do it now)
- How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement The Book!
- How to Write “Physician Assistant” The Definitive PA Grammar Guide
- Secrets of Successful PA School Letters of Recommendation
- 101 PA School Admissions Essays: The Book!
- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
- 7 Tips for Addressing Shortcomings in Your PA School Personal Statement
- The #1 Mistake PRE-PAs Make on Their Personal Statement
- The Ultimate PA School Personal Statement Starter Kit
- The Ultimate Guide to CASPA Character and Space Limits
- The GRE and PA School: The Pre-PA Advisor Series
- 10 Questions Every PA School Personal Statement Must Answer
- 5 PA School Essays That Got These Pre-PAs Accepted Into PA School
- 7 Questions to Ask Yourself While Writing Your PA School Personal Statement
- 101 PA School Applicants Answer: What’s Your Greatest Strength?
- 12 Secrets to Writing an Irresistible PA School Personal Statement
- 7 Rules You Must Follow While Writing Your PA School Essay
- You Have 625 Words and 2.5 Minutes to Get Into PA School: Use Them Wisely
- What’s Your #1 Personal Statement Struggle?
- 31 (NEW) CASPA PA School Personal Statement Examples
- How to Prepare for Your PA School Interview Day Essay
- Should You Write Physician Associate or Physician Assistant on Your PA School Essay?
- Meet the World’s Sexiest PA School Applicants
- PA School Reapplicants: How to Rewrite Your PA School Essay for Guaranteed Success
- How to Write a Personal Statement Intro that Readers Want to Read
- PA School Reapplicant Personal Statement Checklist
- How to Deal with Bad News in Your Personal Statement
- Inside Out: How to use Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling to Improve your PA Personal Statement
- Ratatouille: A Pixar Recipe for PA School Personal Statement Success
- Personal Statement Panel Review (Replay)
- Mind Mapping: A Tool for Personal Statements, Supplemental Essays, and Interviews
- Start at the End: Advice for your PA School Personal Statement
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Luke Moran says
Dear Stephen PA-C,
Please review and critique my PA essay draft for CASPA, and thank you in advance for your time.
Luke Moran RRT
My career path into medicine began as I lay staring up towards a blurry ceiling. As the surgeon placed the cornea flap back, I began to ponder a glorious future. The splendor of seeing winter tree branches, a television show while resting on a pillow, or even the difference between shampoo and conditioner in the shower was overwhelming and heartwarming. LASIK has been the catalyst for a future defined by purpose. My post-operative appointments showed uncontrolled increasing intraocular pressure, and both my corneas were so edematous it was like looking through a glass of milk. An emergency bilateral trabeculectomy surgery became the only option to save my vision. Due to the exquisite care from medical professionals, I decided to obtain a subsequent degree in applied medical science. I enrolled in Respiratory Therapy school to serve and help patients who succumb to genetic disposition and misfortune. This reason, coupled with my aspiration for further education, perpetuates me to become a great physician assistant.
While in a respiratory therapy school rotation, I met a man with a tracheotomy on mechanical ventilation. Professionally, he was an ophthalmologist with no family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, yet still was diagnosed. While I cared for the doctor, it reminded me of how his profession brought me a new purpose. I wanted to do more for him than I presently could while focusing on pulmonary mechanics maintenance. As a result, I discovered the role of a physician assistant and became enthralled with the mentally rewarding challenges, leadership, and diversity of the profession.
While obtaining my degree, I worked on multiple extracurricular challenges and spent my final year in a leadership role as class president for the respiratory therapy program. As a leader, I organized numerous fundraising events focusing on educating and involving community members on the benefits of cardiopulmonary health. I began working as the first respiratory therapy equipment Supply Coordinator at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Within a short time, my devote work ethic and commitment to learning were respected and rewarded with a preceptorship at the hospital respiratory therapy department. Although concerns of COVID19 canceled the internship, my role only became more valuable in the hospital. As physician assistants dedicate themselves to physicians and patients’ needs, I dedicated myself to my team of respiratory therapists to supply the equipment required to save as many lives as possible from a non-discriminatory disease.
Being apart of COVID19 challenged my mental and physical stamina like I never conceived would happen long ago as a patient. The guidance and advantages of being given a second chance for a meaningful life have given me the ability to gift that same right back to the community. Beginning my medical career as a respiratory therapist, I am skilled in understanding the cardiopulmonary system and work with specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of many patients. While my role is a fundamental construct to the healthcare field, I want to do more. I want to be a physician assistant.
Juliana Hernandez says
Here’s my finished draft. Any type of feedback would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
In a Greek hospital, on a warm summer day, completely dressed and prepped with scrubs and a mask, covered from head to toe, I am watching an open chest surgery. As I peek over the surgeon’s shoulder, I get my first glimpse ever of a beating human heart and I am stunned. As this miraculous organ is pulsating, I am besieged by many feelings coming at me at the same time. As I am completely covered and protected, I see a patient who is literally wide open and vulnerable under the surgeon’s hand. I am also amazed at how fragile humanity is and how medical personnel play a vital role in saving lives. In that frozen moment in time, I realize what my vocation is going to be. This human heart beating beneath me represents life, inspiration, passion, and resilience, all important elements in my decision to pursue a career as a physician assistant.
Life is a series of vulnerable moments and mine has not been an exception. Throughout my childhood and high school years, I struggled with multiple medical issues and a personality that lent itself to indecision more often than not. In a relatively short period of time, I dealt with a tonsillectomy, two knee surgeries, a scratched cornea, and many serious infections in between. All of these medical issues sidetracked me with sports I was involved in and social events I was supposed to attend. Additionally, and especially because I like to weigh out all options, I tended to be indecisive and had no clear vision of which path to follow. I did not know who I was nor what I wanted to do. In the Greek hospital surgery room, something crystalized in my mind and I had a vision of what my professional life would look like. I would be involved in medicine somehow.
Inspiration is a spark that happened during a difficult moment in my high school career. After my second knee surgery, I had plenty of time during rehab to discuss with Dr. McClure how he became a physician. I was impressed with how much he was helping with my recovery and the interest he took to get me back to playing volleyball as soon as it was medically safe to do so. Dr. McClure became a mentoring figure in my life and throughout our many discussions, he planted the seed of a possible career as a PA. He thought I would be a perfect candidate because he knew that I worked well with a team, was compassionate, and driven to make a difference while helping others.
Passion is a strong desire that needs to be fulfilled. As a PA, there are three areas that I am interested in tackling because of the enthusiasm I felt throughout the last four years. They are, and in no particular order, athletic training, nutrition, and physical therapy. As an athletic training technician at the University of Arizona, I was lucky enough to work with different players that came from divergent situations and backgrounds. Their body shape was different, their caloric intake was unique, and their physical recovery was dependent on many factors. What I found so interesting is the challenge of figuring out what uniquely works for each athlete I helped. My reward at the end of each encounter was seeing the noticeable progress the athletes were making and knowing that my comprehensive plan of treatment was at least in part responsible for their success.
Resilience is one of my core personality traits. Since I can remember, I have faced challenges with strength and overcame them with confidence. I arrived at U of A feeling so confident that I would ace my classes and felt falsely prepared from my high school education. Unfortunately, the first four semesters proved me wrong. I struggled with less than exemplary grades despite the fact that I was working harder and studying longer than ever before. After my sophomore year, I made a critical decision that would alter the rest of my college career. I decided to take a step back, refocus my goals, and work on a new strategy for studying. I was determined to overcome this challenge and I wanted to prove my capability and motivation. The results came quickly, and I saw better grades and a more confident self. During my last four semesters I raised my GPA from a 2.968 to a 3.417 at graduation.
My decision to pursue a career as a PA came late in my college education. Although I will not have the best GPA, and certainly not the most comprehensive medical experience, I will be bringing the sum of all the vulnerable moments of my life and how I resolved them successfully to the classroom with me. I am looking forward to learning as much as possible and challenging myself to reach further. Becoming a PA will mean much more than helping patients with their health issues. I will be excited to hear each person’s story and figure out the puzzle of improving their conditions and struggles. The beating human heart I witnessed in Greece was a life changing moment and I want to bring what I felt in that surgery room on that warm sunny day to every patient I will have the privilege to work with.
I took a deep breath, crouched in the starting block, and gazed over the tops of the hurdles. The crack of the starter pistol vibrated through my bones as if it were directly powering my every stride. First hurdle, cleared. Second hurdle, cleared. I checked my periphery and saw no competition in site. Third hurdle, cleared. My adrenaline and excitement peaked as I realized I could win the race. Then BAM, the fourth hurdle became intertwined with my legs. My knees and elbows scraped along the asphalt as I fell to the ground. As I gathered my bearings, I realized I had rolled off the track and into the grass. I was missing a shoe. Without hesitation, I rose and returned to the track. I quickly regained my momentum and finished the race. Though I finished dead last and was probably disqualified from leaving my lane, bowing out was not in my nature. Today, I realize this once embarrassing memory from my youth perfectly reflects my journey and desire to become a PA.
During my first two years of college it seemed as though I was in perfect stride. I was clearing each hurdle with ease as I was academically successful in my courses. However, a transformative semester abroad proved to be a period of self-reliance that made me reflect on what I truly desired out of a career, and what academic fields equally challenged and piqued my interest. My Health Care in America and Introductory to Global Health courses left me energized and craving more medical education. Upon my return from abroad, I started a new academic journey as a pre-health student and explored the fields and careers of medicine in an EMT course.
Similar to my fall on the fourth hurdle, my new journey presented obstacles that disrupted my stride. I had to retake organic chemistry and the addition of pre-requisites added a year to my post-baccalaureate timeline. However, my revamped schedule of science courses also stimulated me. This fascination and my desire to become a PA drove me to get back up and finish the race. After working as a Patient Care Technician (PCT) in a busy emergency room during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, my commitment to this profession is now firmly cemented.
COVID-19 has been an unexpected hurdle across the world and across our healthcare system. In order to act swiftly in moments of crisis and overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic, our ER has relied upon teamwork. The ER’s culture of collaborative problem-solving has strengthened my own ability to work independently while refining my communication skills with team members. These experiences will benefit me as a PA, as they have given me the confidence and motivation to provide care to those that need it the most. I am grateful to play my small role in helping our ER quickly and efficiently adapt to the pandemic. I believe the teamwork in our ER has allowed us to regain momentum and reach our ultimate goal of treating patients with the level of care they deserve.
Working in the ER has exposed me to patients with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and has shown me the privilege and responsibility that emanates from treating patients in their most vulnerable state. Helping patients through life-altering events has been humbling and valuable for the development of my clinical skills. Due to COVID-19, our ER has restricted patients from leaving their rooms unless absolutely necessary. During one of my shifts, a behavior health patient was refusing to return to her room and was hindering her nurse and I from tending to our other patients. With a warm and calm demeanor, I convinced the patient to sit down and talk with me in her room. After engaging in conversation about her family, friends, and beloved dogs, she thanked me for taking the time to talk to her and was cooperative moving forward. I was saddened to see her return to our ER a few weeks later, but our previous interaction helped establish a trusting relationship from the moment she arrived. I strive for my patients to feel valued and cared for, and this interaction taught me that patient-provider relationships will flourish when patients feel listened to by their providers.
As I crossed the finish line that day as a teenager, I experienced a mix of emotions: embarrassment, sadness, and defeat. But within a few moments of reflection, I was overwhelmed with pride and dignity because I did not lose sight of my goal. Today, I feel the same way about my journey to become a PA which has resulted in my rewarding patient experiences. These experiences have taught me that it isn’t a perfect stride or even a complete set of shoes that are needed to overcome obstacles, rather it is perseverance, compassion, and collaboration that are essential to achieving goals and serving others. I believe that my dedication and resilience have primed me to become a compassionate and competent PA, one who will fight to provide my patients with the level of care they deserve.
Hi, I would love some feedback on my Personal Statement.
Thanks so much in advance!
Confused, I fluttered my eyes open to my concerned Mom looking over me. I would later find out that while she was combing through my knotted hair, I fainted. One stroke of the hairbrush caused my vision to go black, my ears to ring, and my muscles to go limp. Lying on the ground I was helpless and overcome with fear. This syncope episode would be the first of three that would occur in my childhood years. As a young girl, I was perplexed as to why my body would seemingly give-up on me. The doctors were perplexed as well so I was tested for seizures and given the diagnosis that I was experiencing syncope as a reaction to pain and only time would tell if these episodes would intensify or disappear. These thoughts haunted me as I competed in varsity sports and later became a division one pole vaulter. But as I grew, I realized that I couldn’t let fear rule my thoughts. With resiliency, I went from being the defenseless patient to recognizing my strengths and wanting to help others in my position, thus become a physician assistant.
Throughout my time at university, I was surrounded by athletes who were injured. From muscle tears to stress fractures to mental disorders, I saw my teammates be holistically cared for by a team of healthcare professionals. Observing these interactions cemented my desire to become apart of this healthcare team. I want to have the skills to be a resource for a defenseless patient by providing stability, and tools for them to heal. I want to gain the knowledge and ability to turn a helpless human into a hopeful one; one who can achieve their dreams and conquer any obstacle in their way because of the care and support they received from astounding healthcare professionals.
As if my healthcare experiences growing up weren’t enough to entice me to go into the medical field, I chose to gain more hands-on experience as a Home Care Aide, physical therapy assistant, and later serve as an Adolescent Health Promoter for the Peace Corps in Guyana, South America. Although all of my experiences have taught me something profoundly different, I have had the incredible experience of providing direct patient care to infants, adolescents, and pregnant mothers while working in Guyana. I have found so much fulfillment weighing and measuring newborn babies and counseling mothers to ensure adequate growth. Testing blood pressure and urine of pregnant mothers as well as advising patients on prescribed medication, alongside an amazing team of healthcare professionals, has taught me the value of healthcare and the need for caring and flexible professionals, especially in underserved communities that lack the resources and education.
Now an adult and without fainting spells for 15 years, I dream about becoming a PA so that I can help others go from helpless to hopeful. In my experience of being treated by and working with many healthcare professionals, I have grown to realize the importance of patient empathy and communication. I feel that PA’s provide some of the best care and are able to have a more personal understanding of patients. In this way, PA’s can communicate well while providing diagnosis’s and treatments, with the benefits of working on a team. Working with underserved communities, including assisted living patients and rural communities in South America, have provided me with a unique perspective on patient care that is unparalleled to many others. Through this experience I have been molded, crafted and shaped into the woman I am today, fully confident that the PA school is the next step for me, so that I can continue serving those in underserved communities.
I know that being a PA is the career for me but I want to acknowledge that my GPA may reflect a number lower than the competitive standard for your school. Rest assured, the number is lower than the standard I have for myself. Through college I struggled to find the balance between academics and pole vault. I started to realize that my passion in life was not to become a professional athlete, but to serve others as a Physician Assistant. During my last two years at University, I adjusted my study habits and began to manage my time more effectively, eventually making the Dean’s list senior year and achieving a Student Athlete Academic Award. I know that when I go through PA school, my focus will be solely on excelling in the classroom. I am completely committed to working in healthcare and being the best PA that I know I can be.
I would love some feedback!
Peter – a grandfather of three and restaurant owner in his late-60s – looked scared to death. His cardiologist sent him to me for a nuclear stress test, having seen something odd on his EKG, but never fully explained what that meant to him. Peter was flustered, half-listening to my standard spiel about the test, worried about not having taken his diabetes medications.
I injected the radioisotope into Peter’s IV after he was given Regadenoson (a stressing agent) as I had done a thousand times before, but I knew immediately that something was wrong. Peter’s blood pressure dropped even as his heart rate climbed. His face turned pale. I examined his EKG, and knew from my experience that Peter was having an adverse reaction to the Regadenoson, but not because he was experiencing vasovagal syncope or else his heart rate would be decreasing. Unfortunately, that was all I knew. I could not do more.
As I watched, the physician assistant and nurses on staff sprang into action, quickly tilting Peter’s chair back, administering aminophylline, and delivering IV fluids to stabilize his vitals. It seemed that Peter’s adverse reaction was not an emergency by any means to the team. But in that moment, I felt extremely limited in my role as a nuclear medicine technician. I so wanted to help, but I could not.
I chose a career in Nuclear Medicine because I was interested in the science of medical imaging, and because I have always loved patient care. I loved encouraging patients like Peter through every step of their procedures and ensuring that they were as comfortable as they could be. I also had the pleasure of learning about patients on a personal level. For Peter, I learned how excited he was to see his three grandchildren on Saturday, how proud he was to be a restaurant owner, and how we shared a love for food. I remembered seeing Peter’s genuine smile that lifted him momentarily out of his fear and anxiety. We had connected on a deeper, more human level than that of caregiver and patient. This was why I chose medicine.
While I love that my role as a nuclear medicine technologist allows me to connect closely with patients, I have always wanted to learn more. In my career, there have been many situations like Peter’s, where I found myself frustrated because I did not know the significance or pathology of a particular imaging study, or because I could not appreciate how the information learned from an imaging study or stress test could be used as part of the patient’s overall treatment plan. I realized quickly that I wanted to upskill from being a technologist, so that I can treat patients more comprehensively, and so that I can leap in and help in moments of crisis, instead of always stepping aside and deferring to others. I realized the role I most wanted was that of a PA. As a PA, I would have the skills to treat patients broadly and independently. I would be able to unburden myself from the limitations that frustrated me as a technologist, but also continue to be able to care for patients directly.
To get more hands-on experience with the profession, I began to shadow Anthony, the senior PA in cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital, who became my mentor. Shadowing Anthony reaffirmed my confidence that becoming a PA was right for me. I saw firsthand how Anthony developed personal relationships with each patient he treated while being able to act as a general resource for them. Anthony constantly answered both broad and in-depth questions about patients’ immediate needs and overall treatment plans, which helped put patients at ease even during stressful situations. I was also intrigued by the interactions I saw between the PA and the physician. While Anthony was given latitude to work independently, he always maintained an open channel of communication with the physician, and they continuously discussed their different perspectives in order to determine the best way to treat the patient. Becoming a PA would allow me to combine my strength for communications with my passion for patient care, while allowing me to increase my medical knowledge to be able to treat patients more comprehensively.
I do not regret that I chose nuclear medicine. Rather, I believe my experience as a technologist is a perfect stepping stone to becoming a PA. During my three years as a technologist, I have matured and learned to persevere despite challenges such as taking night classes while working full time and finding inventive ways to care for my patients despite not having vast medical knowledge. I also reaffirmed that no matter how difficult patients may be, I love every minute of caring directly for them. Although the test follows the same processes, each patient interaction is unique and calls on my ability to communicate and treat compassionately. The physician assistant program will allow me to continue to hone my medical skills, so that the next time I meet a patient like Peter, I will know how to help.
Alberto de Miguel says
I’d love some feedback on my personal statement. Thank you very much for your work, it is truly appreciated!
“Simplemente quisiera darle las gracias por lo que hizo por Sergio*.” As Lorena* mourned the death of her husband Sergio, she took the time to call me from their hometown in Mexico to thank me for what I had done for him. I met Sergio back in October when he came to the urology clinic where I worked. He seemed very confused and out of place as he was checking in. “He does not speak any English,” the receptionist said. As a native Spanish-speaker, I felt it was my responsibility to ensure Sergio had the best patient experience possible. I had been there. I knew what it felt like to nod and awkwardly smile because you have no clue what is being asked of you. I took Sergio back to a treatment room as he walked with his head down, looking very distressed. Once I started speaking Spanish, his body language completely shifted. The light in his eyes changed and his awkward smiles were now genuine. As I was obtaining his vital signs, we chatted about our home countries and our journeys to the United States. Sergio was a young seasonal forestry worker who loved playing soccer. This was the beginning of a small, but powerful connection. Sergio’s physician asked me to interpret for him during the appointment: “Please tell him that his imaging revealed metastatic testicular cancer and that he needs immediate treatment.” I froze for a second. Then I collected my thoughts and broke the news to him. After numerous conversations with Sergio, a couple visits to the imaging center, and multiple phone calls in Spanish to his wife and employer, we were able to develop a plan for him. A few days after his diagnosis was confirmed, Sergio returned to Mexico to receive chemotherapy.
Over the last couple of years I have had the chance to work closely with patients from diverse backgrounds. While it may seem mundane to communicate with someone with whom you share a language, experiences, or background, it gains value through its infrequency. I have realized the energy that resides in the connections that I have been able to make with patients, whether they were facilitated by common language, life experiences or simply similar tastes. It is something truly powerful. Providing treatment to patients may stimulate the concept of purpose; but the true joy and fulfillment for me lies in the connections that develop with patients and peers. While working as a medical assistant and a physical therapy aide gave me a taste of these connections, I always felt limited in the time I was able to spend with patients or what my credentials allowed me to do. It was like a ceiling that did not allow me to reach my potential. My professional and personal growth inherently called for something bigger and more challenging.
I have been captivated by the PA profession since I was a sophomore in college. However, this enticement was solely based on internet research and conversations with professors or friends. There was nothing tangible about it yet. It was not until I started working with Justin at North Idaho Urology that I knew becoming a PA was everything I wanted in a career. On slow days Justin and I would chat in his office. My inquiring mind always wondered about his clinical decisions, so I fired a lot of questions his way. Whether it was the physiological dysfunctions of the upper urinary tract or the different roles of testosterone, he would always have a very well-rounded and thorough answer. “You’ll learn that in PA school” was the standard response to my often amazed face. Beyond the broad medical knowledge, it was the sharpness of his mind, the way he interacted with patients, and his ability to work as part of a team that inspired me. In a way, it reminded me of my experience on the Whitworth Men’s Basketball Team: each member plays a role in the success of the team that will only be achieved if everyone understands and executes their role. Justin perfectly understood his role, and so did I; and that is why we worked so well together. As much as I enjoyed being a medical assistant, I am ready to step up to a greater role on the team. Even though it was not for long, my experience with Justin was like a mirror in which I envisioned my future self. Through him, I saw a glimpse of what I truly believe will allow me to reach the professional fulfillment and joy that I am pursuing.
My mother used to say that there are moments in life that will shift the course of your future, but that you cannot anticipate when they are going to come. Lorena’s call was one of those moments. For her to remember me in such a moment of grief and thank me for what I had done signified that I had touched Sergio just as much as he had touched me in a connection so powerful that it transcended countries. I will never forget Sergio. But similarly, I will never forget that feeling of helplessness I felt from hitting that ceiling and being unable to do more for him. With all these memories in my mind, the time has come to break through that ceiling.
My hands become bloody everyday. My fingertips callused. My arms, legs and stomach marked with fine bruises. Anxieties about how my body will react to what the day will bring fill my mind. Starbursts, juice boxes and needles fill my backpack, purse and work bag. The words, “can you eat sugar?” are imprinted in my head. These are attributes I never let define me since my diagnosis, at age nine, of Type 1 Diabetes. I do not have one defining moment of when I decided I wanted to be a pediatric physician assistant. Yet, I have a lifetime of deep experiences. These experiences made the goal to apply to PA school, achievable.
In October of my sophomore year of college I became ill. I got two eye infections, two ear infections, a respiratory infection and a bacterial infection due to my weak immune system. I developed extreme anxiety and OCD behaviors through this period of constant illness. After twenty-three visits to the health center, I became frustrated with doctors. I found them to be more interested in treating my symptoms rather than finding the cause due to their caseload. For two months, doctors prescribed me many antibiotics. My grades slipped and I had become mentally fatigued. Until, a PA at the emergency room took the time to listen. She sat down and conversed with me about everything experienced. I talked for almost a hour. Through a physical exam, she located a lump on my neck. Mono! A diagnosis that could have been made much earlier. I realized the type of PA I wanted to be, someone the world needed more of. This PA spoke to me as if I was her colleague and family member at the same time. I will provide reassurance and faith in my patients after gaining knowledge in PA school.
I entered college as a neuroscience major. I had a passion to break the stigma behind mental illness. I wanted to learn how the mental body of a human being affects the physical. I obtained my first internship at nineteen in a mental health clinic. I was an assistant therapist in a group therapy called Dino Club. Dino club therapy was treatment for children ages three to nine. These children suffer from anger problems, depression, PTSD (from abuse or neglect) and other disorders. Rather than trying to cure the children of their mental disorders, we taught them how to cope and thrive in a world with them. This treatment plan amazed me. Focus is usually put on curing the problem. Yet, in times when it is non-curable, education on how to live happily with long term disease should be the focus. Analyzing the emotional and mental states of patients will always be a priority of mine.
I am most proud of my time as a school nurse in the Monroe County school district near Indiana University. Families entrusted me to treat their kids. I treated severe emergencies (seizures and diabetes care) to simple care (applying bandages). I gave children their prescribed daily medications. To receive their medications, the child had to answer questions about it. This verified that the medication they were about to take matched their order form. I worked hard to ensure I was treating the kids with compassion and effectiveness. I kept a communicative relationship with the families. The hardest part of my hands on job, was not being able to finish the job. I often said, “I am not sure, I cannot diagnose”. Typically, I often could predict the problem. Once, a child presented a rash going up his fingers and spread to his arm. It could have been an allergic reaction, a fever or poison ivy. I studied the child’s vital signs, watched his respiratory rate and the spread of rash. I knew it was not an urgent matter. However, the student came to the health office before for this problem. Both after lunch. It seemed to be reflective of something the child ate. Perhaps gluten? I began to ask the RN that I worked under, a lot of questions. I also began to keep a journal of questions to ask the few doctors I shadowed.. Since I only had minimal education, my only response could be “I am not sure, I cannot diagnose”. I assessed the present state and identified the problem to my best ability. A nurse provides exemplary treatment and care. However,I want to diagnose and stay loyal to the patient throughout their medical journey. PA school teaches disease-centered treatment. It can ensure that I would never have to turn away a patient and say, “I cannot diagnose”.
As I said, I do not let type one diabetes define me as a person. I want to learn how to treat patients and ensure they do not feel defined by their medical obstacles. I worked hard during college to improve my GPA as I learned that chemistry was not a friend of mine. Yet, I excelled in my degree and core classes. My experiences in shadowing, research, volunteering and school nursing has taught me the importance of intuition and reliability. My drive to learn more has kept me passionate. In PA school, I will bring a sense of unity and benevolence to treat all with equality.
Melaina Salmon says
I recently finished my first draft and would love some input!
Passion. It is the simple, seven letter word that sums up a person’s goals, aspirations, who they are, and who they strive to be. I believe one’s life should revolve around what they are passionate about and those passions should drive them to happiness and success. As I walked into work that hot summer day, dental hygienist Stephanie explained to me why she regrets not following her dream of becoming a dentist. She told me, “dentistry is my passion.” I could see it in her eyes as she explained to me how much it means to her to be able to help her patients that she truly loves dentistry. Having wanted to be a dentist for the past 3 years of my life, it was a tough pill to swallow when I realized dentistry didn’t give me the same glow in my eyes as it did hers. I yearned to discover the career that would make my eyes light up the same way Stephanie’s lit up when she talked about dentistry.
From the time I was a young girl I always had a smile on my face, was eager to learn, loved working as a team and running for leadership positions, and simply loved life. Whether I was working on my duties as student council and class president, participating in athletics, or volunteering at local blood drives, I’ve always had a drive to not only better myself, but share a smile everywhere I go in hopes of making even just one person’s day a little better. To this day, one of the most gratifying compliments I have ever received is that I have a smile that can light up a room and a personality that can’t be stopped. As I made my way through high school, I quickly realized how much I love working with people and was drawn to the medical field, but I wasn’t able to pinpoint a career field that exactly aligned with my interests and the lifestyle I wanted to live as an adult. In all honesty, I didn’t think I would ever come across a career that would peak all my interests and draw me in for the rest of my life.
As the days of summer winded down, it was time to head off to UMKC’s Biology Bootcamp to kick off freshman year of college. While there, Kathy Ervie spoke about the PA profession, what a PA is, what they do, and laid it all out on the table. Considering I had never even heard about the PA profession, I had a lot to think about if I wanted to pursue a career as a PA. From then on I began doing my research, and it was not long before I was hooked on the profession, but knew I had to get in and shadow to confirm the PA profession would be right for me. This led me to PA Andrew Rendoff, who I had the privilege of shadowing for 50 hours over the course of two months. Through him, I learned the ins and outs of being a PA. In that short time I was captivated by the relationships he had with his patients and the physician, the role he played in the clinic and during surgery, the rush I got when I was able to experience surgery first hand in the operating room, and the autonomy a PA has while still working as a key member of a team.
By the end of my freshman year of college, I was determined to start doing whatever it took to explore the medical field and get as much experience as possible, which led me to KC Phlebotomy where I took a course to become a certified phlebotomist. I was then connected with Doctors Paul Reicherter and Jessica Jellison and began working at Jellison Integrative MD as a medical office assistant (a title we totally made up not knowing what would be a good title for my role). My duties not only include completing office work and taking phone calls, but also working with patients and the doctors to give our patients the best care possible. On a daily basis, I am giving patients infusions, drawing blood for lab tests, performing a variety of tests on patients, and getting them checked in and out. It is at Jellison Integrative MD where I fell in love with patient care. I fell in love with the patient interaction, getting to work as part of a team, and seeing patients get better with each visit. I love seeing patient’s medical symptoms questionnaire results go from the hundreds down to single digits and being able to show when how far they have come.
I am proud to be able to say I have finally found the glimmer in my eyes that I have been looking for for so long, and from here on out, I am dedicated to doing whatever it takes to turn my passions into a lifestyle. I want to be the best, most competent physician assistant I can be and help advance the PA profession in every way possible. With my experiences working at Jellison Integrative MD hands-on with patients as a part of a medical team, volunteering with Community Blood Center, and as a member and officer of UMKCs Pre-PA society, I have a lot to offer UMKC’s Physician Assistant program in helping achieve the program’s goals and living up to the mission statement by going into the PA profession with the ambition to achieve clinical excellence, the desire to serve, and dedication to the profession.
Stefani Hillrich says
I am just finishing revising my personal statement for PA school. I made somem changes after reading yours and seeing what a difference it made. Would you be willing to read my draft?
Heidi Kendeigh says
The sun was beating down on a hot afternoon in the middle of the sugarcane field where a small concrete structure was standing without any A/C, fans or electricity. A line stretched out the door with more people trying to come inside. For one week, I was able to help out at a free medical clinic in the Dominican Republic. Throughout the week, I was able to help people by transporting them from triage rooms, giving them anti-parasite tablets as well as assisting and shadowing the physicians treating the patients. Seeing over 300 people in the clinic and treating conditions ranging from hypertension to meningitis was an incredibly fulfilling experience. I loved being able to see so many patients in such little time with a large diversity of cases. As all of the volunteers packed up and left the Dominican Republic, we rewarded ourselves with a nice dinner out. Due to this, all but three members of the group contracted parasites and we had to take the same anti-parasite pills that we had previously given the clinic patients. Even with this unfortunate circumstance, I realized that the reward of being able to care for others was absolutely worth the risk of possibly getting sick myself.
I came back to Illinois and decided to take a class while still in high school to become a certified nursing assistant. At 17, I was able to obtain my licensure and at 18 I landed my first professional job in the medical field as a CNA in an assisted living facility. While in this facility, I was placed in the Hospice, Alzheimer’s and Dementia wing where I met many wonderful people. By the time I resigned from this position 2.5 years later, all but 1 of the patients that I began with had unfortunately passed away. I became so close to some of the patients and their families that I went to many of their funerals and grieved alongside their loved ones. This job taught me about the cycle of life and the reality of death that I would have to face if I wanted to continue in the medical field.
While in college, I learned about a great new opportunity that would give me a new experience with physicians in a completely new setting. After meeting with a representative that visited my college, I became a scribe in the emergency room at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Illinois. This is where I got to experience a fast paced environment where anything and everything could happen. I learned how different physicians faced each complicated issue and how they could utilize the resources of the hospital and others around them to help their patients. I also learned about the role of a physician assistant, and how they interacted with the physicians and medical staff within the emergency room.
Once I transferred hospitals and was promoted to the role of chief scribe at Rush University Medical Center, I was tasked with the need to know who each employee was and what their job entailed. Each time I would train a new scribe coming in, I would need to introduce them to the other employees and inform them about the different roles they play in the emergency room. Due to this, I became very close with several physician assistants who were my constant supporters. I noticed that the physician assistants were extremely personable and had a love for their job without much burden. I frequently asked the PAs questions about their job and how I could begin a career as a PA, since I always wanted to work in the medical field, but did not know which position I was most interested in. Every time I learned more about the physician assistants that I worked with, I felt as though it would be the perfect career for me.
After 16 years of schooling, it only took me 2 years working with PAs to figure out the many benefits and opportunities that a career in the field would provide me and my family. My love for medicine, my dedication, and my hard work are all excellent foundations to a career as a PA. Working in several different facilities, in different roles, and with a variety of diverse patients helped me to realize what an impact I could have on my patients and the field of medicine as a Physician Assistant.
Madison M. says
I appreciate the fact that you posted this. The first and second drafts of my personal statement was very similar to yours in terms of structure and content. I read the PA School Essay #2 and made quite a few changes to my personal statement as a result.
Would you be willing to read my revised draft?
Thanks in advance,
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Madison, would you mind posting it here so I can give you a critique in the comments section?
Madison M. says
During my sophomore year of college, my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Despite what seemed to be an impending doom, my grandmother, who had already endured excruciating chemotherapy treatments years earlier secondary to colon cancer, emitted optimism as she laid in the hospital bed. Her eyes glistened as she recounted stories of my grandfather who had passed away years before I had been born, her smile radiating as if it were yesterday.
As the weeks progressed, the oncologist informed my family and I that the cancer metastasized to her liver. In a matter of days, my grandmother’s stories were replaced with silence as she lay, her once glistening eyes flooding with tears as the nurse collected routine blood samples.
She contracted nosocomial pneumonia at the end of her battle and I remember my last moment with her; the only audible noise was the whistling from the ventilator. I grasped her cold hands, staring at them the same way I did as a child. When I was younger, I always wondered why her fingers looked as though they were pushed toward the little finger, not realizing that she had ulnar deviation secondary to rheumatoid arthritis. I would push my fingers in the same direction so that my hand could resemble hers.
In that moment, I understood that it would be the last time I would ever hold my grandmother’s hand. I understood that, in the recesses of my soul, there would be an absence.
The woman smiled as she handed me her clipboard at the front desk; the Shepherd’s Hope patient registration form revealed that her name was Maria. She walked back to her seat in the waiting room, trying to calm her children as she waited for a consultation with the clinic’s eligibility specialist. She looked tired, but was patient, simply holding a finger to her lips as the children restlessly waited with her.
The printer rolled off Maria’s prescriptions, signifying that it was time to gather her discharge paperwork. I organized her laboratory and radiology requests and walked over to her seat in the waiting room. Her daughter and son were resting now as Maria read a book. It was not until then that I realized wrinkles covered her forehead; they made me wonder if the boy and girl who accompanied her were actually her grandchildren. I discussed with Maria her treatment plan and she simply smiled, shaking her head intermittently. As I handed her the stack of papers, I noticed a cross pendant necklace dangling from Maria’s neck. The necklace closely resembled the one my grandmother gave me shortly before she was admitted to the hospital for the last time. I smiled to her and said, “Un gusto hablar con usted.” Maria looked at me, placing her hand onto mine as she replied, “También fue un gusto hablar con usted.”
I may have lost my grandmother to cancer, but I feel her spirit through my involvement in healthcare. Whether it is through the warmth of a hand gently resting upon my own, or through a simple “It was a pleasure speaking with you, too,” the absence that manifested in my soul fills with the gratitude from the patients whom I interact with.
I began this “new version” a few days ago, so I know that I still have to iron out the edges—particularly the transitions and the final paragraph. The most important that I would like to ask you, though, is this: do you feel that this essay answers the prompt? I recognize that I do not even address the words “physician assistant” in this draft of my personal statement. This draft also lacks any mention of the experiences that I have had shadowing or working as a medical scribe. Nonetheless, I feel that, through expanding on my volunteering experience, this version has more heart in comparison to the my other draft.
My other draft is very similar to your PA School Essay # 1; it basically outlines everything that has led me to want to pursue a career as a PA.
Madison M. says
Stephen, I apologize as my previous post is a variation of this draft that I am not as confident with. Please read this draft instead.
During my sophomore year of college, my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Despite what seemed to be an impending doom, my grandmother, who had already endured excruciating chemotherapy treatments years earlier secondary to colon cancer, emitted optimism. Her eyes glistened as she recounted stories of my late grandfather, her smile radiating as if it were yesterday. As the weeks progressed, the cancer metastasized to her liver and my grandmother’s stories were replaced with silence.
She contracted nosocomial pneumonia at the end of her battle and I recall my last moment with her; the only audible noise was the whistling from the ventilator. I grasped her cold hands, staring at them the same way I did as a child. I was always fascinated by the orientation of her fingers, wondering how they were able to stay pointed toward her little finger, not realizing that she had ulnar deviation—a consequence of rheumatoid arthritis.
In that moment, I understood that it would be the last time I would ever hold my grandmother’s hand. I understood that, in the recesses of my soul, there would be an absence.
During this time of grief, I remembered a statement made by my former karate instructor Sensei Mike. “Each time you step into this dojo, you are dedicating your time to something greater than your individual self. You become a part of a team, a family.” His words reminded me that my grandmother would not want me to wallow in despair, but rather devote myself to something that could better the lives of others.
The woman smiled as she handed me her clipboard at the front desk; the Shepherd’s Hope patient registration form revealed that her name was Maria. She walked back to her seat in the waiting room. She looked tired, but was patient, simply holding a finger to her lips as her children restlessly waited with her.
The printer rolled off Maria’s prescriptions, signifying that it was time for me to gather her discharge paperwork. I organized her laboratory and radiology requests and walked over to her seat in the waiting room. Her daughter and son were resting now as Maria read a book. It was not until then that I realized wrinkles covered Maria’s forehead; the lines made me wonder if the boy and girl who accompanied her were actually her grandchildren. I discussed with Maria her treatment plan and she simply smiled, shaking her head intermittently. As I handed her the stack of papers, I noticed a cross pendant necklace dangling from Maria’s neck. The necklace closely resembled the one my grandmother gave me shortly before she was admitted to the hospital for the last time. I smiled to her and said, “Un gusto hablar con usted.” Maria looked at me directly in the eyes, and she shared a story. A story of perseverance and strength. She placed her hand onto mine as she replied, “También fue un gusto hablar con usted.”
I may have lost my grandmother to cancer, but I feel her spirit through my involvement in healthcare. Whether it is through the warmth of a hand gently resting upon my own, or through a simple “It was a pleasure speaking with you, too,” the absence that manifested in my soul fills with the gratitude from the patients whom I interact with. And that could be enough—volunteering at a health center for uninsured, low-income patients—but I would like to extend my hand further. I would like to see each patient not just as they enter and exit through the clinic door, but throughout their entire healthcare journey.
My experience as a medical scribe in the Florida Hospital Lake Mary emergency department has elucidated that the perfect marriage of patient-provider interaction and clinical medicine can be achieved through the PA profession. Kerfala Fofana, PA-C was one of the first providers whom I worked with as a newly hired scribe and exemplified this balance of sciences and personal interaction. Kerf’s exuberance was contagious; upon entering each patient’s room, Kerf would greet the patient as if he were greeting a long-lost family member. He openly consulted the attending physician, whether it was with regards to recommendations on an antibiotic or on admitting a patient to the ICU. Unfortunately, Kerf’s mother became ill, so Kerf traveled to his home in Africa to monitor her and has not returned to the Lake Mary emergency room since. While I lament the lack of time I spent with Kerf, I appreciate his dedication to his patients, notably one of his newest—his mother. Kerf has shown me that sentiment cannot be sacrificed, not matter how full the waiting room becomes.