Medical writing for doctors can be a fulfilling side project or even a lucrative career choice. Here’s how you can make it work.
As a doctor, you are an expert at what you do. You have spent years honing your skills and building a practice and a reputation. But in addition to your skills as a clinician involved in face-to-face care – there is a huge market for your words as well.
With the rise and rise of medical blogging and health information there is a bigger need for words about health and medicine than ever before. Organisations of all types (and media) need high-quality and authoritative content. And as a medical professional, you already have the required expertise and background knowledge to give you a head start in becoming a health writer and getting your words published.
The exercise of turning facts into narrative requires originality, flexibility and a willingness to see the world in different ways. Yes – the facts must absolutely be correct – but the putting words together to forms sentences, paragraphs and stories can be surprisingly creative.
There are many different ways to communicate facts – and finding ways to engage your readers in a narrative that engages and empowers them in their health is truly creative. Instead of narrowing your thinking down to a diagnosis and a management plan, writing helps build your capacity to find patterns and meaning in different experiences. And, if you discover that you love the work, you can even think about transitioning from physician to medical writer full-time!
Here are five reasons why health writing can be good for you…and good for your clinical practice.
1. Earn a medical writing income as well as a doctor income
Writing can often be done in snippets of time between patients, on the train, waiting for your kids to finish soccer training. Using these snippets of time to create health articles can be a great way to supplement your income. As a medical writer, you may not equal a doctor’s income – but you can certainly earn a sizable second stream.
2. Fill career gaps being a medical from the comfort of home
When you need to take time off from your doctor’s job due to illness, having a baby or moving countries, an ability to write and sell your writing can be indispensible for keeping some money flowing in. The best thing is you can write from the comfort of your own home – or airport lounge – or anywhere. All you need is internet access – and a knack with words (and the good news this can be learnt through a quality health writing course).
3. Keep up to date with industry trends
Systematically searching for and reading papers and guidelines is a great way to keep up with medical research and the most recent thinking in your area of interest. The opportunity to pause and read without a specific clinical question in mind allows you to build up a more macro view of developments and how they fit into (or challenge) existing knowledge.
4. Medical writing broadens your perspectives
As you become immersed in the literature around a topic you will have opportunities to take off your professional doctor hat and write about medical issues from a consumer, patient, specialist or health system viewpoint. This is an enriching experience that allows you to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while and build your empathy muscles.
5. Build your influence as a doctor and a medical writer
It’s one thing to have a practice of loyal patients – but being a doctor medical writer in the wider community (via a blog or publication with your byline) can be a great way to help build your profile, get your name known and spread public health messaging in an engaging and informative way. Communicating between doctors can help you build your medical practice as well as building your credibility as well as strengthen the capacity of the community to make informed health decisions.