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7 Tips for Writing the Perfect Family Nurse Practitioner Essay

NurseJournal Staff
Updated April 20, 2022
    A good essay is key to getting admitted to an MSN program. Learn how to write an excellent nurse practitioner personal statement with these tips.
    Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

    If you are pursuing a career as a family nurse practitioner, you will likely be required to submit a personal essay. Your nurse practitioner personal statement explains why you want to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and is an important step in the graduate nursing program application process.

    What you say in your nurse practitioner essay should tell the admissions committee who you are as a person and why you will make an effective and ethical nurse practitioner.

    When answering the section on “why I want to be a nurse practitioner,” your response may come easily. Others might struggle with putting their reasons into words in an original and clear way. This guide will show you how to convey who you are and why you make an excellent candidate.

    1. Be Specific

    When you receive your essay questions, you will notice that they are reasonably generic. What the university is looking for, however, is how you turn that into something specific.

    Don’t just outline your overall feelings about a full topic. Instead, go into detail and use specific examples from your personal experience that truly demonstrate your capabilities. Not only is this a better way of answering the question, but it also means your essay will be far more interesting. It will properly showcase your personality, which is a very important part of nursing.

    2. Be Concise

    Always remember that you are writing an essay and not the next great saga. Oftentimes, there will be a word count limit. However, if there isn’t, you shouldn’t write every little detail you come up with. What matters is that the information is complete and doesn’t go off-topic. Stick to the guidelines provided, as they have been given for a good reason (one of them is to test you on how well you can follow instructions). You must be concrete in your answers.

    Admissions committees must get through dozens or hundreds of applications. If your nurse practitioner essay is too long, they’ll likely lose focus. In addition, nursing requires concise communication in daily work. If you come across as taking a long time to get to the point, this may leave an unprofessional impression.

    3. Demonstrate Your Passion and Commitment

    When you describe why you want to be a nurse practitioner, your passion and commitment should leap off the page and make the admissions committee excited to offer you a place. They should see you as the kind of student and colleague that they want to represent their school. You can do this by making sure that your nurse practitioner essay:

    • Shows how your experience and education motivate you
    • Describes specific motivators, such as mentors, experiences with nurses, or even experiences as a patient
    • Shows that you are committed to all aspects of nursing, including patient care, collaboration, cultural competence, and continual learning and improvement
    • Clearly summarizes these elements to match your background and passion to the school’s culture, as well as to nursing

    Avoid clichés or general statements about why nursing is important. They already know that. What they don’t know — what you have to tell them — is why your passion will make you an excellent FNP.

    4. Tell a Story

    Storytelling is the most powerful and memorable form of communication. The stories we’ve lived shape who we are. Leverage the power of storytelling in your nurse practitioner essay.

    • Choose the right story and apply it to nursing. It doesn’t have to be about nursing specifically, but it needs to apply to nursing. Talk about instances where you’ve demonstrated teamwork, perseverance, crisis response skills, or communication successes.
    • Start with a vivid hook that makes the reader want to know what happens next.
    • Use clear language that helps the reader understand and identify with the choices you made.
    • Make stories about more than just yourself. Nursing is a team practice, and if you write as though you’re the only important character in the story, it can seem arrogant or self-involved.
    • Show empathy. Empathy doesn’t mean having a lot of feelings or dwelling on them. It means understanding others and meeting them where they are.
    • Customize your nurse practitioner essay to the program. What values does the school hold? How does the school site describe learning, teachers, and current students? Make these values and priorities stand out in your writing.
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    5. Highlight Your Strengths

    Your essay is an opportunity for you to show what you are made of. Highlight all the things that are good about you, such as your education, your career, your background, and other experiences. Perhaps you have done volunteer work, or you have already been employed in the medical field. It is always a good idea to give some examples of the experiences you have had to demonstrate why you are good at what you do and why you want to become an FNP.

    When highlighting these strengths, it is best to be specific and include examples. For instance, saying you are hardworking may sound like a good trait to focus on, but it could be more impactful to provide a specific example of how you have worked hard during your career. This will add credibility to your essay and reinforce your claims.

    6. Keep it Professional

    You want your nurse practitioner personal statement to be memorable, but only in the right way. Keep your tone professional and individual. Think of your essay as though you were a stranger reading it. Would you want the person who wrote this essay to be in charge of your or a loved one’s care?

    Never make a colleague or patient look bad in your nurse practitioner essay. This is a surefire way to get rejected, as it comes across as unprofessional, unfair, and potentially unethical. While a sense of humor is invaluable for a nurse practitioner, humor is very difficult to convey to an audience you don’t know.

    Avoid exaggerating, even for dramatic effect. While exaggerating might improve the story, obvious exaggeration will cast doubt on your professional judgment.

    Lastly, don’t use foul language in your nurse practitioner essay. Just like humor, while many nurses use it as a coping method, they are careful about their intended audience.

    7. Edit Again and Again

    Finally, once you have completed your essay, proofread it. After that, give it to someone else to proofread and then edit it once more yourself. Spelling errors, typos, and layout problems are certain to have your application denied because they show a lack of attention to detail. Share your essay with as many people as possible and ask for their suggestions and edits before you finally submit it.

    Remember that the faculty members of the FNP program you are applying for also look at how well you can write. Clear communication will be an important skill for successful FNPs. Hence, you must make sure that your essay is well-reviewed and well-written. This is also why you should start developing your essay as early as possible, as this is not a job that can be rushed.

    Putting Pen to Paper

    Think of your nurse practitioner essay as a way to show who you are, to reflect what is most important to you, and why you will be an excellent FNP.

    If you’re not sure where to start, try having a conversation with a friend who is a good listener and have them ask you questions about why you want to be a nurse practitioner. Ask them to probe into what you say and tell you when something comes across as especially meaningful or significant.

    Begin by writing anything at all about “why I want to be a nurse practitioner.” Turn your inner editor off. For this first step, the goal is quantity, not quality. Either as you keep writing or when you review it later, you’ll usually find something valuable you can use.

    A few final tips:

    • Start early. Even if you’re not sure when you’ll want to earn your MSN, you can start keeping notes now. Once you know when you want to apply, outlining your nurse practitioner essay months ahead will pay off.
    • Ask a variety of people to review your writing. Different people bring different perspectives.
    • Think of it not just as an essay but as a chance for reflection. This is another reason to start early, since this kind of reflection can bring new insights that you’ll want to use.
    • Remember that the better your nurse practitioner personal statement reflects you, the better the decision the committee can make. Be your best self, but be yourself.

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