The field of Medical Writing consists of much more than transcribing notes for doctors or nurses. It takes more than an understanding of science to become a good medical writer. The medical profession includes many individuals outside of the actual medical arena.
The medical profession encompasses not only doctors and nurses, but you may be writing for other hospital staff, purchasers, medical manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, government health agencies, insurance representatives, or you could be writing information pamphlets and brochures for the general public. There is also advertising in medical magazines. The list goes on.
As each of these professions deals with a different aspect of the medical industry, they will each have their own jargon. If you want to excel in the medical writing field you will want to become proficient in as many of these niches as possible. This will make you marketable to more employers, keeping your prospects open.
Besides medical terminology, you will need terms relating to the insurance industry, education, the health care industry and marketing and business.
The three basic categories of medical writing are regulatory, promotional and educational.
Regulatory medical writing deals with the more scientific aspect. This type of writing involves transcribing information from clinical trials into technical reports. This usually involves the legal dimension of health care. You may have to write study protocols, Investigators brochures for distribution to the scientists leading the studies, patient narratives and manuscripts outlining the results of clinical trials for publication in medical journals.
Promotional medical writing incorporates creating materials for the promotion or sale of prescription drugs, medical devices or interventions. Each of these requires sales-training print and multi-media materials. The purpose of these materials is to educate the representatives about the new device or drug and how to promote it to prescribers. These materials are not just for the sales team, though. Anyone who has influence over prescribers of medical devices or drugs or those who will pay for them are targeted by this type of medical writing.
Educational medical writing includes continuing medical education (CME) programs. These may encompass writing needs assessments as well as the actual CME training materials. Patient information also comes under this category of medical writing. Although the patient information is usually advertisement based, it is written in a different format from the other marketing materials so it falls under educational medical writing. The patient will learn about their medical issue and then ask their doctor about the treatment described in the pamphlet.
You will need to know and understand medical terms, but that will not get you into the medical writing industry. As you have seen, medical writing is comprised of much more than knowledge of medical terminology. This seems overwhelming at first, but do not despair. It can be done and is done by several very successful medical writers on a daily basis. Even with a scientific background it is helpful to have some resources to assist in getting you to the level of a professional medical writer.
If you are seriously interested in becoming a medical writer, take note of the following resources. You will find them essential to your medical writing career.
AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors: A must have guide for anyone in the medical writing field.
Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 31st edition: This medical dictionary will have the definition you are looking for, utilizing accurate, clear descriptions; a valuable resource.
Managed Care Digest Series®: this is an annual series of free digests in hard-copy or electronic formats, developed by the pharmaceutical giant, Sanofi-Aventis. Included in this series are the Hospitals/Systems Digest, the Senior Care Digest, the eManaged Care Trends Digest, the Government Digest, and the HMO-PPO Digest. Each individual digest contains information on all components of health care delivery. They also provide updated information and statistics incorporating data from Verispan.
mediLexicon: It is provided by Stedman’s Medical Dictionary and defines more than one hundred thousand medical terms. It is an online resource and is tailored to professionals. It includes definitions for terms, acronyms, phrases and abbreviations.