Are you wondering what medical writing is?
I also get this question every time I tell people what I do. In essence, here I explain it to you.
Writing documents for medical and healthcare projects
First of all, medical writing is about communicating health and scientific knowledge through texts.
At the same time, for some medical writers like me, it is the answer to bringing together two different worlds:
- science and
Did you already notice that the spread of biomedical data is today a growing trend?
As a result of this tendency, awareness of the quality and communication potential of each piece of information has increased dramatically in all sectors.
Where do you find medical content? Correspondingly, all over the healthcare sector:
- from regulatory documents of the pharma industry
- to patient info brochures
- and healthcare related web pages or news.
The term medical writing includes a very very vast scope of texts
In short, imagine it as a palette of tones: instead of colours you have types of texts.
On one end of the palette,
- protocols of a clinical trial,
- clinical study reports
- or investigator brochures and other regulatory documentation.
On the other end,
- a blog post about the impact of CRISPR/Cas9 technology on your daily life (pardon me, you said what? This is a new gene modification technique that we can talk about later),
- the About page of a biotech startup
- or the new catchword for the webpage of a fertility clinic (what would you say that is both direct and sensitive at the same time?).
While the term “medical writer” is commonly used to refer to professionals producing regulatory documents, there are far more roles a medical writer undertakes.
Therefore, the type of content depends on who will be reading the lines and why:
- reviewers with a high technical background,
- or healthcare practitioners like physicians or nurses
- and extending on to patients, and the general public.
Yet all these different roles have common requirements for the writer: scientific and communication expertise.
Medical writers are scientists with writing skills or journalists interested in health issues
Most of all, medical writers are specialised writers.
It is worth noting that all backgrounds are valid, and almost all areas of expertise add value to the scripts. Therefore, these skills create the niche of the writer.
As a result, the scope of projects in which a medical writer can take part is enormously extensive, and the skills required depend on each of them.
But generally speaking, a medical writer needs some particular skills. Can you identify yourself with them? Here they are:
- Understanding of human physiology.
- High knowledge of diseases and their treatments.
- Good interpersonal skills.
- High level of English.
- Analytical mindset.
- Excellent attention to detail.
- Good writing abilities.
Medical writers are people managers, idea miners, mediators, communicators and document wizards.
Julia Forjanic Klapproth, Medical Writing: The Backbone of Medical Development.
Research and communication skills do not always come together
Personally, I have spent the last 15 years in the “scientifically rigorous” part of the palette.
As a matter of fact, academic papers come naturally to me, and I understand and enjoy the scientific slang.
As a scientist, you get trained in serious technical and analytical skills. Consequently, communication is often a byproduct of presenting and publishing your research.
Interestingly, it seems like one of the most common misunderstandings is that everyone can write.
So, who can be a good medical writer?
Overall these are the top 2 ingredients for wonderful writing:
- practice and
Consequently, it is worth investing in training and working with specialised professionals.
Luckily, there are plenty of training courses to increase communication skills or to deepen the understanding of medical issues.
Good news! Career expectations for medical writers are increasingly good
Especially relevant, these 3 trends are boosting the demand for medical writers:
- the ever-expanding digital universe,
- the democratisation of knowledge
- and the current growth of “open source” scientific knowledge.
Not to mention the increasing regulatory requirements of the pharma industry.
The need for good intermediates between the sea of scientific data and the public is growing exponentially.
And as varied as the projects are, so are the employment opportunities.
Where do medical writers work?
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Clinical research organisations (CROs)
- Communications and medical writing agencies
- Nutrition industry
- Biotech start-ups
- Healthcare related websites and organisations
- Governmental Organisations
- Non-profit organisations
In addition, these can be either office-based as well as home-based, employed or as a freelancer. All options are possible.
The essential mission of medical writing is to improve people’s health
- From working towards the approval of new medicines and therapies,
- or raising awareness in medical staff about a newly approved drug
- to inspiring changes in old habits to encourage healthier lives.
In conclusion, medical writers can be the game changers in how medical and scientific knowledge impact people’s lives.
This is because ultimately medical writing is all about handing answers to health concerns to the people that need them.
And this is a goal worth waking up for every day.
Now, what do you think? Do you consider medical writing could probably be a career choice for you? Maybe now you will see medical communications with different eyes. Tell me about it!
- IFLA Trend Report 2017
- Broad-spectrum medical writer: Nature or nurture? (McIntosh, 2009)
- Image Source: A Career Guide to Medical Writing. EMWA. Sally Jackson and Raquel Billiones 2016
- Medical Writing: The Backbone of Medical Development. Special edition of International Clinical Trials (ICT) February 2017