Doctors, nurses, and other hands-on health care workers deal with high degrees of stress and burnout. The good news is that if you’re sick of patient care (pardon the pun), you don’t have to flee the medical profession completely.
Medical writing makes a great second act for doctors and nurses who have the right credentials.
A Real-Life Story
Mandy Armitage, MD, was completing her fellowship after medical school. As an assignment, she had to write a book chapter, and she discovered that she enjoyed writing and was quite good at it. After practicing medicine for six months, she knew she didn’t want to continue in patient care, so she saved her paychecks and enrolled in an online writing course. Eventually, she opened her own medical writing and communications company and made her living as a full-time medical writer.
Medical writing isn’t just for doctors. It also makes a great transitional career for nurses who have at least a BSN and strong writing skills. In fact, medical writing was recently named one of the top 10 work-from-home health care jobs. With more and more medical information getting misrepresented in the media and on the Web, clear communication about health care matters has become more important than ever. Medical writers might not work at a patient’s bedside, but the information they communicate becomes a vital component of patient care.
Possible Career Paths
As a medical writer, you can specialize in different types of health care communications. Some examples include:
- Regulatory writing: As a regulatory writer, you might prepare documentation for pharmaceutical companies and for the FDA.
- Marketing writing: Medical marketing writing involves promoting products and practitioners in an informative and ethical way.
- Feature writing: If you dream of writing about health care issues for mainstream magazines or blogs, you could develop a career in feature writing as either a freelancer or a staff writer.
- Journal writing: As a journal writer, you could assist medical professionals and researchers by writing, editing, and properly citing their journal articles.
- Education and training materials: Whether you’re educating patients or future pharmaceutical sales reps, you can write brochures, articles, video scripts, and other materials.
- Grant writing: With your assistance, doctors, graduate students, and research institutions can secure grants to fund their work.
- Editing: Medical writing requires great precision and accuracy. As an editor, you ensure that readers get information that meets the highest quality standards.
The medical writing training you need depends on your medical experience and your writing skills. For instance, if you’re an RN, you’ll need to complete your BSN degree. You should also consider a master’s degree in medical writing or a graduate certificate program. The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) lists a number of graduate programs that can help you meet your goals.
If you’re a doctor, you have extensive medical training, but a medical writer’s grammar has to be better than a doctor’s penmanship. To boost your writing skills, you could complete an AMWA certificate program, which offers specialties in regulatory and research, composition and publication, and essential writing skills.
Earning AMWA Certification
Getting a certificate and earning AMWA certification, although they sound similar, are two entirely different undertakings. AMWA certification as a Medical Writer Certified (MWC) requires the following steps:
- A degree: MWCs need at least a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s in nursing will fit the bill.
- Related work experience: You’ll need to demonstrate two years of full-time paid experience as a medical writer, or four years of part-time experience, during the past five years.
- A passing exam score: After filling out an application and paying a $150 fee, you’ll complete a 125-question medical writing exam. The exam covers all aspects of medical writing, so you may need to brush up on areas outside of your specialty.
MWC certification, especially if you aren’t a doctor, can place you ahead of your competitors. It makes clients feel more confident about hiring you, and it can be your key to finding a job.
To Freelance or Not to Freelance?
Medical writers work for marketing agencies, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and insurance companies. If you prefer to be self-employed, you could start your own company, like Mandy Armitage did, or you could work on your own as a freelance medical writer. Before you quit patient care completely, try some medical writing projects on the side, or start a blog related to your medical expertise. If you don’t enjoy the writing, you’ll still have your paycheck while you figure out your next steps.
Sponsored by: Anna Maria College