Overcoming medical phobia considered a hardship?

I’m hoping someone can help provide some perspective on a question I’m struggling with. I’m outlining my personal statement and I have what is, to me, a good explanation to why I have discovered this path so late in life. However, I’m not sure it’ll translate.

I have overcome a severe phobia of injections. One of the bigger challenges was that many medical professionals are not understanding of this phobia. “Nobody likes needles” or “just don’t look at it” have been common dismissals when I tried to explain my fear. Most needle phobics don’t seek out treatment which may add to the lack of understanding, but my panic was usually treated as an inconvenience.

To help illustrate this, some terrible decisions I’ve made based on this fear…

-delaying college due to required immunizations

-having cavities drilled without Novocaine because pain was preferable to needles

-at age 17, hitting a nurse when they tried to restrain me despite me asking them to wait because I wasn’t ready (I am completely mortified by this)

-avoiding medical treatment for most of my adult life

Anyway, I recently went through therapy and after a lot of work, I still don’t like shots but I’ll do it. This was my own personal Mount Everest and has allowed me to discover medicine as a career path after working in an unrelated field for 10 years.

I guess my questions are

  1. Could this drive my personal statement?

  2. Is this really considered a hardship? I’ve heard phobias and personal struggles listed as such, but when you hear about some of the things people have overcome, I’m not sure this qualifies

    Thank you for your help!

Chances are, the nurse will do the shots, unless it’s a lidocaine injection around a lac that needs to be sewn. I know I give the IM injections to the patients in the ED (I’m an ED nurse).

Although I am not yet writing my personal statement, I’m going to focus on why I am awesome and why I am going to be the most amazing physician (Emergency Medicine is my direction). I do not like cleaning up dirty depends (which happens a real lot in the ED); I’d never write about the depends I had to scrape dookey out of to get a stool sample from that made me gag…

Pay attention to your strengths, not the IM injections you may have give. FYI: It’s much easier to give them than to get one. I’d be the MOST non-compliant patient if I had to get a foley, shot, IV, etc., outside of having a baby

Hope that helps!!

  • LMac Said:
I guess my questions are

1) Could this drive my personal statement?

2) Is this really considered a hardship? I've heard phobias and personal struggles listed as such, but when you hear about some of the things people have overcome, I'm not sure this qualifies

Thank you for your help!

I don't want to take anything away from your personal triumph but the personal statement is only 5300 characters (like one page with wide margins). Playing devil's advocate: maybe your phobia would raise more questions than you have room to explain while still "showing" who you are. For instance, "is this person going to be afraid of blood? cadavers?" "How will they do in surgery?" "Should they be a health care provider if they neglect their own health?"

I'm sure you have perfectly reasonable answers to these questions but like I said, do you have enough room to answer those questions and tell "us" who you are? Would it maybe be better to focus on all the other things that show "distance traveled" and what made you want to be a doctor? If the experience of not being understood made you want to be a doctor, you can frame it that way but you don't want to seem like you have a grudge either. If you get interviews and get the "why now", or when you answer "gaps in education" questions on secondaries, you can tell your story. But it might be better to tell it in a manner that doesn't dwell too much so it's understood that you are ready to get in there and do all the things any type of doctor does.

I'm not saying don't address it all together. I'm just saying it might be smarter to address it tactfully. If it engulfs your personal statement, one might get the impression that the phobia is still an active part of your life.

I’ve got a gut feeling (very scientific) that you might want to stay away from addressing the phobia. No doubt, it’s a huge personal / emotional accomplishment to have such progress in that area, but you may consider focusing on positive medical experiences, why you want to be a doc, etc.

There is a great book out there called “Essays that will get you into Medical School”, a really quality reference.

As for your questions: I wouldn’t use the phobia to “drive” the essay and it may not be the traditional hardship.

Just my 2 cents.

First, I agree with the others that putting the phobia as a driving force in your personal statement is NOT wise. It would undoubtedly raise more questions about your readiness to be a physician; understandably, overcoming such a phobia is necessary to practicing medicine, and so it would expected of you to do so. From my own experiences, phobias about being in hospitals and in clinics, and with blood and needles, or doing dissection or surgery, etc. are not unusual. Rather, I believe that your personal statement should focus a bit on (1) who you are or who you have become, especially as driven by “positive” medical experiences to which you contributed in a meaningful way, and show (2) what you learned from those experiences that encourage you to being a physician. By “positive” medical experiences, I am referring to situations where you helped ameliorate suffering or pain or crisis, particularly for populations that are medically underserved. Shadowing a physician is nice and shows adComms that you know what you are getting into, but helping to identify and solve a health problem is even better because it “makes a difference” (An old cliched phrase but it is appropriate here.)