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Caring for Terminally Ill Family Members

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by forgetful, May 19, 2014.

  1. forgetful

    forgetful 2+ Year Member

    Mar 28, 2013
    Within the past two years, four people in my family became sick, required long-term and/or or hospice care, and passed away. This happened to coincide with my decision to return to school, finish prerequisites, and consider applying for medical school. I was working 75% full-time, in school half-time, and helping to take care of and support my grandparents during any free time. I could not justify committing to a volunteer position during this time; and of course, I did not have the emotional capacity to volunteer in a medical setting with sick patients.

    My question: does it make sense for me to include this history on my application? If so, where would I write it? I would like to be able to explain the 2 years I spent not volunteering, shadowing, or gaining clinical experience.

    Thank you for your advice!
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  3. mct2762

    mct2762 Banned Banned Account on Hold 2+ Year Member

    Dec 19, 2012
    if it influenced your decision to go to medical school I would definitely add it in your personal statement
  4. LongTimeLurk

    LongTimeLurk first time post

    Mar 18, 2014
    right here, right now
    Yes include it in your history and state how it made you stronger and what you learned from it. Do not use it as an excuse. Avoid using the bolded above. A necessary follow up would be, how are you going to handle it when this happens during medical school/residency/practice?
    forgetful and Mad Jack like this.
  5. Mad Jack

    Mad Jack Critically Caring Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    4th Dimension
    Experiences such as this are extremely valuable and can make your application come across as both unique and sincere. As was stated above, however, do not ever use such experiences as an excuse for poor grades, a lack of ECs, etc. Make it clear that you spent a great deal of time with your unfortunate family members, that you were glad you had the chance to spend those last days with them, and that it has made you a stronger person and even more committed to a future in medicine (if any of this applies, obviously). Focus on the positive, and don't drag out the negative. Grit- the ability to stick it out in tough situations, to perform well under pressure, to persevere, and to be resourceful even when the chips are down- is one of the most important traits an applicant can have. It is a trait that you aren't born with, but you gain through successive hardships and failures. Show that this was one of those tough times, and that you've come out the other side a tougher, better person.
    forgetful, Goro and Zelda840 like this.
  6. Goro

    Goro Faculty 7+ Year Member

    Jun 10, 2010
    Somewhere west of St. Louis
    It can go in your PS, but it's an explanation, not an excuse. You still need to know what you're getting into, and what a doctor's day is like. Would you buy a new car without test driving it? Buy a new suit without trying it on?

    In short, I appreciate your filial devotion, but you still need to do all the things that other pre-meds do. You also will need to demonstrate that your filial devotion won't be a problem in medical school once the next family member gets sick. At some point, you have to be selfish.

    I just re-read your post and was struck by this comment: "I could not justify committing to a volunteer position during this time; and of course, I did not have the emotional capacity to volunteer in a medical setting with sick patients."

    I would reject you outright for that.

    forgetful likes this.
  7. forgetful

    forgetful 2+ Year Member

    Mar 28, 2013
    Thank you for your candor. I must have misrepresented myself in the original post because I certainly have no intention of making excuses, and I do not wish to use these experiences in lieu of shadowing or volunteering. My question was really about if and where I should simply state that I spent a lot of time over the period of those two years taking care of family members.

    I was in school and working 2+ jobs during those years -- my grades are great and my work refs are great. Spotless. My grandfather died while I was in the middle of preparing for the MCAT, which I took and did well on. I held it down, and I felt that graduate school could wait.

    After my grandfather died, I decided to wait another year before applying so that I could spend more time shadowing health care providers, volunteering, and doing some soul-searching about how I want to practice medicine someday. By the time I apply, I will have plenty of shadowing and clinical volunteer hours and hopefully a very articulate personal statement. I don't think that I will be any less qualified than any other applicant.

    I hope that clears up the intent of my original question.
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
    LongTimeLurk likes this.

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