Writing Your Essay

Most admission essays are going to revolve around a few key questions:

  1. Why do you want to become a nurse anesthetist?
  2. What have you done to prepare yourself to begin training as a nurse anesthetist?
  3. Why are you interested in applying to this particular graduate program?

The answer to the first question should not be about money nor autonomy. Please do not write nor mention in your essay that you are pursuing the career for more money and more autonomy. It’s already self-evident that going into nurse anesthesia means you’ll be making more and will have more autonomy. Remember, you want to write something that’ll make you stand out from the rest of the essays that the admissions committee read. You’d be surprised how many individuals I’ve met over the years who tell me they want more autonomy in their practice. I just have to say that that’s about the most boring answer you can give.

Think of something personal to share. Use a shadowing experience to describe the interest you developed. Find something so that the person who reads your essay can connect with your story on a personal level. Don’t resort to platitudes about autonomy, independence, etc. Illustrate those ideas using a story. It’s akin to a job interview where you’re asked, tell me your greatest strengths. Don’t just list out strengths. Illustrate them with real world examples. Let the person who is interviewing you draw those conclusions for him/herself. It makes the experience more memorable.

With regard to answering the second question, if you’ve read my previous post on setting your intention, writing your response should be easy. However, to recap, just think about what it means to be an advanced practice nurse (APN). What kind of qualities or activities should an APN (such as a CRNA) be involved in?

For me, it was about going beyond being a strong clinician. That’s a given. Obviously, as a nurse or any healthcare provider for that matter, your primary goal is to be able to provide compassionate, evidence-based driven, competent care. However, I also believe that as one moves into an advanced practice role, one is looking to expand his/her responsibilities not only from a personal standpoint, but from a professional one.

I focused my essay on being engaged in policy, research, and education from a nursing perspective. Everything I did as a nurse was to prepare myself for nurse anesthesia. I thought about the qualities of a CRNA and had already tried to emulate those qualities as a nurse. The kinds of activities that I believed a CRNA should be involved in were activities I became involved in as a nurse. I worked in an intensive care unit providing and coordinating care on a number of very sick patients. I was involved in a number of research projects on my unit; projects I performed myself and projects where I assisted physicians in collecting data for their research. I participated in a number of different unit practice committees where we collaborated to enhance patient safety outcomes. I volunteered my time outside of work at a hospice facility.

I was involved in numerous activities because (1) I actually enjoyed performing those activities and (2) because I believed being a CRNA meant to being leader in nursing and what better way to demonstrate leadership potential than to be involved in activities that helped promote your growth as a professional, the growth of the department you work in, and enhancing patient safety measures?

I think when you take this approach, it makes writing your essay relatively easy because you’ve already done all the legwork of getting into school. It’s just a matter of being able to succinctly describe your journey of getting to this process.

Finally, to answer the third question, read the school’s mission and philosophy and think about how your values are aligned with what the school wants to achieve. It may take some time for you to develop a response and perhaps you’re only choosing the school because of the price alone. And that’s okay, but obviously, don’t mention that in your essay. Think about how the school’s mission will help you fulfill your personal and professional goal on becoming a leader in nursing. As I previously mentioned, make your statement as personal as possible. Remember, there are hundreds of applicants who are applying for a limited number of spots at whatever program you’re applying to. You want to make yourself stand out and by taking the time to thoughtfully write out why you want to be a CRNA, what you’ve done to prepare yourself to begin graduate school, and how that particular school will help you achieve your goals, that’s what will set you apart from the competition and will grant you an interview with the admissions committee. I can tell you from personal experience that every school I applied to, I was granted an interview because of the approach I took.