What is Medical Writing? (and How to Become a Medical Writer)
Most of us know that the medical field is made up of a vast array of professions and roles – from doctors and nurses to specialists, pharmacists, administrators, and more.
But have you heard of medical writing before?
It’s not as widely known as a profession in the health sciences, but it’s also likely you depend on it often whenever you’re getting information about healthcare.
Medical writing is the process of creating scientific and healthcare materials to ensure that accurate information reaches both healthcare professionals and their patients. I’ve been involved in medical writing for the past several years, and it’s really a great profession to be in.
In this article, we’ll give an overview of what medical writing is, and a few tips about how to become a medical writer.
What is medical writing?
Medical writing is a vital part of the healthcare industry and appeals to those who are both detail-oriented and skilled in writing.
It involves researching and synthesizing complex medical science information into concise, easy-to-understand pieces for patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals, employees of pharmaceutical companies, and more.
Medical writing is a broad field that encompasses any written or informational material that communicates scientific or medical information.
Medical writers create documents, slide decks, brochures, and other materials related to all forms of communication within the industry.
While the primary role of a medical writer within the industry is broad, different types of medical writing may require different skills..
Who does medical writing?
People who become medical writers come from various backgrounds including science, technology, journalism, or communications.
All medical writers tend to have exceptional communication skills and an aptitude for understanding complex concepts.
So if you’re looking for a career that demands creativity combined with attention to detail in order to impact patient outcomes – medical writing might just be right up your alley!
Types of medical writing
Medical writing is an important facet of healthcare and there are many different areas within medical sciences and life sciences that a medical writer can focus on.
There are regulatory documents such as clinical trial summaries, case reports, and summaries that cover the specifics of patient treatment in clinical trials.
Other regulatory documents widely used include clinical study reports to summarize findings from clinical trials, and informed consent forms that must be filled out by research subjects participating in studies.
Medical writers may also compose booklets about diseases or create promotional materials for drug companies. They also might attend medical conferences to communicate scientific information through news formats, like press releases or even news articles medical professionals read, to the medical industry.
Medical writers are also involved in communicating medical concepts to healthcare professionals through medical education writing, and to patients through health writing. Medical communication professionals also work on scientific publications, working closely with medical journal editors and medical publication professionals.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to medical writing! Whether you’re just learning about the various aspects of this field or have decades of experience, it’s a subject with plenty of complexity.
Here’s a bit more about some common types of medical writing.
Publication writing as a medical writer is an incredibly rewarding and challenging area of the profession.
Scientific writers who work in publications write scientific documents and prepare scientific articles to submit to medical journals.
This requires working closely with the subject matter experts who guide the content of the article and then collaborating with medical journal editors during the process of submitting the article to peer-reviewed journals. You’ll also need to follow good publication practices.
With each new piece, there is the potential to help countless people by communicating important information in a clear and meaningful way.
Being a medical writer in publications gives you the opportunity to work with leading experts in the field while also contributing to the research that shapes our understanding of medicine and healthcare.
It can be both intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding to have your written contributions become such an integral part of public discourse.
Medical education materials can be some of the most fascinating and rewarding work a medical writer can do.
From journal articles and health care books, medical professionals read to patient-facing materials, medical writers are responsible for communicating complex scientific knowledge in a way that is accurate, clear, and easy to understand. Many board review programs may also need medical writers to help create content.
Writing these educational materials is a great way to contribute to the world of healthcare professionals while also developing your writing skills.
It provides an opportunity to learn more about interesting topics while also having the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping people by communicating important information.
Many medical professions require a certain amount of continuing education credits per year to maintain licensure, so there tends to be a continual market and need for medical education materials.
Regulatory writing is an important part of the profession of medical writing, and one of the biggest sectors of medical writing.
Regulatory writers are responsible for creating documents that describe clinical trials, proposed drugs, and other treatments in order to get them approved by government agencies such as the FDA or EMA (European Medicines Agency).
These government agencies are responsible for regulating drugs produced by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. So as a regulatory medical writer, you need to have a thorough understanding of the drug development process and how clinical trials play a role.
As a regulatory writer, you must be able to produce clear and concise regulatory documents based on detailed information while also being aware of the legal and ethical considerations that come with such work.
This work might also include writing about devices used in medical settings. Technical writers might be skilled in this area of medical communication since it may require writing instruction manuals or operating procedures for devices, in addition to regulatory submissions.
It is a challenging but rewarding role that gives you the satisfaction of knowing you are helping advance treatments and therapies.
Writing patient education materials as a medical writer is an incredibly rewarding experience.
It requires clear communication to ensure patients understand what they are reading, while also ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the content.
Writing for a patient audience is very different from writing for a health care professional audience. Health writers who create patient-facing materials need to be aware of best practices for communicating medical science information to the general public.
From leaflets to online material, patient education materials must be written with great care in order to provide patients with the best possible information. Health care organizations and the pharmaceutical industry also have a need for patient education materials, and scientific writing experts can help meet these needs.
This type of work enables you to combine your writing skills with medical knowledge, helping you make a real difference in people’s lives.
Some medical writers, such as those involved in science journalism might attend national or international conferences and write news pieces to communicate information presented at the meeting.
This type of scientific communications work can be great if you like to travel since you’ll often need to be there in person at the conference. Many employers or clients will pay for your travel to get to the conference as well.
The content you produce from conferences won’t usually involve a traditional approach that includes a literature search, but rather a science journalism approach where you are getting pieces written quickly with the essentials to communicate important information.
Requirements for Becoming a Medical Writer
If you’re thinking of becoming a medical writer, first and foremost you need a strong interest in and enthusiasm for the medical world.
Medical writing requires a deep understanding of how science works, so having a background as a healthcare professional is an advantage (but not an absolute requirement).
Writing skills are also essential for this field – you’ll be required to express complex ideas in simple clear language which can be understood by everyone.
Additionally, familiarity with databases and other medical resources means that research will come easily to you while creating accuracy in your work.
A credential or certification in scientific or medical writing or experience with publications will definitely make your skills stand out, however, having experience in the healthcare industry is often just as valuable.
Having the right combination of both educational qualifications and experience can help get you off to a great start when aiming to become a successful medical writer.
To be successful as a medical writer, you need to possess a number of skills.
Excellent written and verbal communication is key, as you will often need to explain complex scientific concepts to different audiences.
An understanding of medical terminology and the ability to work with multiple sources of information is also essential. Attention to detail is important in order to ensure accuracy in your writing.
Additionally, having an understanding of medical regulatory requirements can help you produce documents that comply with the laws and rules of the industry if you’re in regulatory writing.
An education in medical writing is essential for success in the field. It is important to have a strong understanding of both medical and writing topics, as well as an understanding of the process of creating patient education materials.
This might include learning about medical terminology, the scientific process in medicine, various types of scientific documents used in medical writing, and how to write well.
A bachelor’s degree in a relevant science field is often necessary, while some employers may prefer advanced degrees such as a PhD, MD, or PharmD.
Additional certifications like those offered by professional associations such as the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) can also help you get the education you need to be successful.
Learning how to craft accurate, easy-to-understand copy that meets all regulations is a key skill needed for success.
How to Get Started in Medical Writing
Becoming a medical writer can give you an opportunity to combine knowledge of the medical field with excellent writing skills. It’s a profession that requires dedication and research, but if you’re interested in applying your expertise in the worlds of science and communication, then it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
To start your journey down the path of becoming a professional medical writer, you need to acquire knowledge in multiple areas such as anatomy, epidemiology, and statistical analysis.
Improve your skills
Focusing on honing and improving your communication abilities can also be beneficial; it may involve taking courses on technical language or proofreading.
Work for an employer or acquire freelancing clients
With commitment from both sides – employers offering competitive rates for positions and job seekers being qualified for them – success will take shape.
Resources for Aspiring Medical Writers
If you are interested in medical writing, then these resources for aspiring writers may be helpful.
Fortunately, there are several platforms that provide job opportunities and helpful information about the profession. The job board at AMWA and opportunities through LinkedIn are some of the best ways I have found medical writing work. Additionally, some organizations and other medical writers within your network are often willing to provide support and critical feedback when needed.
Joining a professional organization or network is beneficial for staying up-to-date on industry-related news and connecting with other writers who have expertise in the field. The support from peers as well as professionals can prove to be invaluable for any new medical writer. AMWA also offers an Essential Skills package that can help you gain the basic skills needed to be a successful medical communicator.
Tools for medical writers
Medical writers need to be proficient with different software and tools used in medical writing. A good laptop for writing is essential, and applications like the Microsoft Office suite and referencing software such as Zotero and Endnote can be helpful. Recently, AI tools for medical writing have started to emerge as helpful tools for improving efficiency in your writing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are examples of medical writing jobs?
Medical writing jobs can encompass a variety of roles. Common medical writing tasks include producing patient education resources and clinical trial documents, such as protocols, clinical study reports, and investigator brochures.
Regulatory writers are responsible for ensuring that the documents they produce meet applicable laws and regulations, while medical journalists may write articles for newspapers or magazines on topics related to healthcare. Professional copywriters may also create content designed to engage with potential patients or clients on behalf of healthcare organizations.
Do medical writers get paid well?
Medical writers can often expect competitive salaries, depending on their experience and the type of role they are in. Generally speaking, experienced writers who create complex clinical documents can command a higher rate than those who only produce basic patient education materials or market copy.
According to the most recent AMWA salary survey, the median gross income for full-time employed medical communication experts in the United States is $107,000 for writers and $80,560 for editors.
For medical communication freelancers, the median gross income is higher at $151,000 for writers and $77,500 for editors.
With an increasing demand for medical writing services and more roles becoming available, many medical writers have seen their incomes steadily rise in recent years.
What is freelance medical writing?
Freelance medical writing is an increasingly popular career choice for individuals with experience in the field. With this type of work, writers can choose when and where they work as well as pick their own rates and clients.
Freelancers may write clinical trial documents, patient education resources, and regulatory submissions, among other types of content.
What is the American Medical Writers Association?
The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) is the leading organization for medical writers in the United States. I have been a member of AMWA ever since I started medical writing, and it has been a valuable resource for many aspects of my work.
AMWA provides members with a range of resources, from educational and training opportunities to support for navigating the ever-changing regulatory landscape. It also hosts an annual conference that brings together experts on a variety of topics related to medical writing, such as regulatory affairs, drug development, and ethics.
Membership is open to anyone with an interest in health or science communication – giving professional medical writers access to some of the best networking and learning opportunities available.
Do medical writers write about medical devices?
Medical writers often write about medical devices for a variety of purposes. They could be doing technical writing tasks such as creating user manuals, writing press releases, or preparing internal documents such as regulatory submissions and reports.
Medical device companies have similar requirements as pharmaceutical companies when it comes to regulatory documents being submitted to regulatory agencies. Medical device-related topics may range from the technical specifications of a device to its safety and effectiveness in clinical studies.
Writing about medical devices requires specialized knowledge about their design, function, and regulations because authors must ensure accuracy and clarity in all their work.
Summary and My Take
Medical writing is an incredibly rewarding career choice. With a combination of knowledge, skill, and insight you can be a successful medical writer.
Despite its demanding requirements, the massive growth potential in the medical writing sector promises an exciting future for anyone considering this line of work.
With many online resources available, there are plenty of ways to educate yourself and get experience with medical writing before taking the plunge into a new career.
Joining professional organizations and networks is also a great way to find jobs and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the medical writing world. This can be especially beneficial for those looking for full-time, employed opportunities as well as freelance work.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working as a medical writer and I’ve found it to be a very fulfilling career with many opportunities for growth and development. I also appreciate the positive impact I can have on the medical and scientific community through my work. I’d encourage anyone interested in medical writing to look into it and give it a shot!