Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Personal Statement

(for application to the Columbia ETP program)

I believe everyone should have access to a good education and good healthcare. Our happiness, as individuals and as communities, depends on being healthy, both physically, mentally and spiritually. Indeed, one of the reasons I want to become a nurse practitioner is because of its holistic approach to patient care; it combines the excitement and challenge of diagnosing and curing illness with the reward and contentment of educating and caring for patients as unique individuals. Attending Columbia represents the perfect step in achieving this goal of being able to care for the wellbeing of others as well as teach them to care for themselves, as the ETP program combines an intensive hands-on approach with the highest standards of education.

Although I didn’t always want to be an NP when I grew up, when I look back now it seems a natural decision. My dad, one of my greatest role models, always said that aside from his family, being a cardiologist has been the most rewarding experience of his life. I have also experienced first hand how medicine can change someone’s life, for when I was 12 years old I was diagnosed and treated for a pituitary tumor. I feel lucky and grateful to have benefited from the highest quality of health care, which ultimately helped me avoid brain surgery, avoid going blind and, most significantly at the time, break the 5’ barrier before the 10th grade. And all of that thanks to an extremely kind and understanding team of doctors and nurses.

In college, I majored in French and Education with the idea that I might become a teacher. After graduating, I lived in France on a post-graduate exchange scholarship and then to study translation and interpreting. Later, while working at Amazon.com and living in Seattle, I started doing plays and taking acting classes which led me back to Paris for graduate school in theater. It was then that I got a job working for a small medical translation agency and realized that I was interested in health care and medicine.

When I moved to New York, I began working as a medical interpreter which tied together my desire to help people with my background in French. The more I found myself working with patients, the more I wished I could offer them health care directly. I also work as a Standardized Patient, and this has showed me how interesting and challenging being able to interact with a person and take their history is, and how this is such an important diagnostic tool in the primary care physician’s arsenal. I always tell students I work with that patients are looking not just for someone who has the scientific knowledge to fix them, but that they are also looking for someone they can trust and who will care for them. Indeed, without trust, patients may not offer that clinically vital piece of information that will help make the diagnosis. I look forward myself to the wide range of individuals and issues that I will deal with as a family care NP.

Before making the decision to go back to school, I felt it was important to spend more time in the hospital and with patients—to see if nursing was truly the right path for me. So for the past few months I have been volunteering on a step-down and neurology ward at Beth Israel and in the ED and cardiac units at Columbia Presbyterian. What I have learned is that RNs work really hard and play a very important role in the quality of a patient’s stay in the hospital and that I like working in the hospital. I’ve also learned that I want more than hard work; I want the responsibility that comes with being an NP, that is to say, taking part in the diagnostic, prescriptive and educational aspects of care.

From what I can tell I would make a good nurse practitioner. I love working with people and health care connects with something in me. I have a lot of patience, energy, compassion and intelligence to offer patients. I even know what it’s like to be hospitalized in a foreign country. This type of cultural understanding as well as my language skills in French and Spanish should come in handy, as immigrant patients so often make up the underserved populations that I hope to care for.

Ten to 15 years from now, I hope to have gained enough experience and confidence to be an important member of a clinic or practice, while still spending time in a hospital setting (to stay connected). I’m also interested in teaching, and could foresee pursuing a doctoral program towards that end—as well as to gain more training and knowledge. I think that teaching is one of the best ways to really find out if you have learned or know something; as the saying goes, ‘learn one, do one, teach one.’

My rabbi, another role model in my life, once told me something when we were studying together for my bar-mitzvah. He said to me, “Kevin, you’re a smart boy, but that’s not what makes you special. You’ve got a lot of energy and a good sense of humor, but these are also not what make you special. You have a big heart, that’s what makes you special.” I’ve never forgotten that. And I believe that it’s true that the only way you can lead people is by walking the path with them, and that the only paths worth walking in life are paths with heart. These are the paths that I hope to walk as a nurse practitioner.