Words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. —British poet Lord Byron (1788-1824)
What is Medical Writing?
Does being a clinician or holding a faculty position or having in-depth medical knowledge makes a good medical writer? of course the answer is no. Being that writer requires knowledge, practice, experience, writing skills, endurance to rejection and determination to succeed. Medical writing is a written communication that addresses health related topic that is intended to be read by the interested audience. Medical writers include researchers describing the results of laboratory and clinical trials, educators talking about how they teach, clinicians describing about their discoveries, healthcare professional who pens a novel or blog related to medical theme.
With the constant advancement and innovation in medicine and healthcare, there is a need to communicate about research findings, products, devices, articles, blogs. Writing is a great medium to convey latest information to healthcare professionals as well as public.
Who Hires Medical Writers?
Depending on the position and scope of their duties, medical writers are involved in various work sphere. Many medical writers are also called as medical communicators. They are employed in pharmaceutical/healthcare product companies, medical device companies, Contract Research Organizations (CRO) & Business/Knowledge Process Outsourcing companies (BPO/KPO), Scientific content and healthcare communication companies, Media & Publishing companies and Medical journals Academic medical institutions, medical/scientific societies, and healthcare Websites.
Medical writers often work with doctor, scientists, and other subject matter experts (SMEs) to create documents that describe research results, product use and other medical information. They also ensure that documents comply with regulatory, publication and ethical guidelines in terms of content, format, and structure.
Medical writers also play a pivotal role in developing mobile applications involved in
- Disease management
- Continuing medical education and training
- Medical reference and information gathering
- Practice management and monitoring
- Module questions
Medical editors are crucial members of the medical communication team and they are assigned with quality assurance roles including
- Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors
- Copyedit to make writing accurate, clear
- Ensure correct and consistent data across texts and graphics
- Ensure that the content and its organization comply with the appropriate guidelines and standards
What are Examples of Medical Communication Jobs?
Medical writers known as scientific writers, technical writers, regulatory writers, promotional writers, healthcare marketers, healthcare journalists or communication specialists. They may also work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, medical communication agencies, medical education companies, healthcare professional associations, academic institutions, medical and healthcare book publishers.
What do medical writers write?
The expertise of medical workers is reflected throughout the medical community. The work include:
- Abstracts for medical journals and medical conferences
- Advertisements for pharmaceuticals, medical products, and devices
- Advisory board summaries
- Continuing medical education materials
- Patient information leaflets
- Medico marketing tools
- Medical and scientific journal articles
- Magazine and newspaper articles
- Medical and healthcare books
- Poster presentations for medical conferences
- Regulatory documents
- Slide decks for medical conferences
- White papers
What Does It Take to Be a Medical Writer?
While medical writers come from all educational and professional backgrounds, they have interest and flair for both science and writing. They also have familiarity with medical concepts and terminology and can present data and its interpretation in a way the target audience will understand. There is no fixed rule, many medical writers have academic qualification in life sciences, medicine, and other medical sciences such as pharmacy, physiotherapy, microbiology, nutrition and dietetics, biochemistry, biotechnology, science degree (PhD).
How Do I Become a Medical Writer?
Medical writing can be a flexible, rewarding, and well-paying career as in terms of full time and freelance opportunities. To start a career in medical writing field, follow these steps.
Choose a niche
There is a wide range of companies and organizations that employ medical writers, so you should focus in the area you are most interested and best matches your skill set.
- Continuing education for healthcare
- Grant proposals
- Health communication
- Marketing/ Advertising
- Patient education leaflets
- Publication for professional audiences
- Regulatory writing
- Sales training (biotech or pharma industry)
- Scientific publications (peer-reviewed journals)
Other skillsets required may also include:
- Ability to write
- Domain Knowledge
- Medical & therapeutic area knowledge
- Drug development process, pharmacology, drug safety,
- Technical guidelines
- General Knowledge and Skills
- Language & grammar
- Literature/ reference searching
- Interpretation of data
- Ethical and legal issues
Steps in writing scientific documents
Few important steps involved in writing scientific documents include:
- Understanding the project briefly – Before starting to write, it is necessary for the medical writer to understand the purpose of writing the document and what the sponsor wants to achieve through it.
- Literature search and review of information- adequate planning and time spent on literature search and review can fetch valuable information to support the document being written.
- Authoring and compiling the document- Familiarity with the type of document, its purpose and content is necessary to build the draft. This may take time. Having adequate language skills and following the in house or client style guide is useful to reduce the subsequent review and revision time.
- The review processes- Involves review of contents and editorial/formatting review. Quality check of contents involving cross checking all verifiable information with the source data is also required.
- Formatting and editing- formatting (checking text font and size consistency, line and paragraph spacing, headers and footers, margins, page numbers etc.) and editing (language e.g., US or British English, spellings, punctuation marks, correct use of tense, appropriate reference style etc.) of documents is necessary to make a document presentable and acceptable.
- Approval and sign off – all scientific documents need approval and a sign off from, the designated approver or an expert.
- Electronic publishing- make the material available in digital format for online access. Many software tools are available for e-publishing which the modern-day medical writer may need to have familiarity with their use.
Medical writing is both a science and art. It requires an understanding in medical science and an aptitude for writing. The demand for medical writing is growing steadily over the years. The pharmaceutical and healthcare industry offers number of job opportunities for medical writers. Graduates and postgraduates in life sciences who have the right skills and aptitude can consider taking medical writing as a full-time profession.