Train Broadly, Write Specifically
I got one question repeatedly from new medical writers wanting to be trained. They are often not sure of what direction they want to take, so they ask: “Should I take a lot of medical writing courses and learn everything, or should I specialize in a specific type of medical writing?” It’s really two questions, and let me separate them for you. The first question is, “What kind of training should I take?” The second question is, “Should I be a specialist or generalist?”
Both are good questions, and they are two questions, not one.
My simple and I hope memorable advice is:
Train Broadly, Write Specifically.
When employers or companies look for medical writers, they typically want someone for a specific job, or a specific type of medical writing. They like to hire and work with specialists – people who know the particular field, who are familiar with the literature and practice around specific ailments, populations, pharmaceuticals, or devices. Everyone wants someone who knows what they are talking about, in order to get the most bang for the buck out of an author.
So, when you are presenting yourself for work, it’s best to be the specialist who really knows what they are talking about.
Now, of course you can have specialties in a number of different areas. It’s good to do that. That way you can have broader appeal to potential employers or buyers of your content. But they are only interested in the specialty relevant to THEM. Present yourself through your payer’s eyes. Be the specialist THEY want.Now, with regard to training, think about training broadly.
There are about 7 different kinds of medical writing:
1.Consumer Health Writing
2.Abstracts and Posters
3.Biostatistics and Epidemiology
5.Scientific Journal Writing
7.Continuing Medical Education (CME) Writing
You can be well known in one or two kinds. But you should train broadly.
That means Abstract and Poster Writing, and Biostatistics and Epidemiology skills are broadly applicable to Consumer Health Writing, Scientific Journal Writing, CME Writing, and Regulatory Writing.
And Scientific Journal Writing, Regulatory Writing and CME Writing require similar discipline in gathering evidence, performing analysis, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations.
So, when you think of getting trained, train broadly. Consider packages of Medical Writing Training.
When you think of getting work, present yourself as the specialist to your potential payer.
First Steps in Medical Writing
When would-be freelance medical writers connect with me, they often ask for help getting that elusive first job. To get a job in the field of medical writing, it’s important to first determine what kind of content you want to produce. As a medical writer, you can write in any of three broad categories: Regulatory, promotional, and educational. Regulatory writing, which is highly scientific, involves creating documents for submission to the US Food and Drug Administration. An example of this would be a clinical study report, which summarizes the results of a clinical trial. Promotional writing includes creating content for materials, produced in any media, that are used to sell or promote a drug, intervention, or medical device. One example of promotional writing is a sales training program that is designed to teach sales representatives the important information about the pharmaceutical product they will be selling. Another example would be writing the scripts and advertising copy for direct-to-consumer radio, television, and print ads. Educational writing involves creating materials for the purpose of educating health care professionals or the general public. A patient-education brochure that explains a certain medical condition or disease and how to control it is one example of educational writing.
Why do you need to determine what you want to write? Because the content you want to create determines who will hire you. A variety of companies employ medical writers or purchase that type of writing. Hospitals often need medical writers to create patient-education materials or marketing materials, whereas pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations (CROs) hire medical writers who are skilled in regulatory writing. Medical education, medical communications, and medical advertising agencies work directly with pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of biologicals and medical devices to develop creative products such as videos, DVDs, slide decks, and flashy print materials for multiple audiences that will communicate key messages about the drug or device they are selling. These companies are generally full-service agencies that can do it all, from strategic planning to website development, to event planning and implementation. Because they offer such a variety of services, companies that specialize in medical communications have a great need for writers to keep up with the demands of their clients.
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