Medical writer

Positioning Yourself as a Medical Writer in 2 Simple Steps

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In the current scenario, when most job requirements are nose-diving, medical writer share plenty of scope for progression. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies depend on medical writers to overcome various challenges like handling regulatory paperwork, writing for advertising strategies and to have seamless clinical trials.  Apart from pharma and biotechnology, the CRO’s, medical communication agencies, publications houses, hospitals and e-learning companies are in need for talented writers who can understand science. It implies that there is a huge scope for new and talented medical writers, therefore, it’s a good time for the aspiring medical writers to make themselves visible in the market.

A medical writer can choose to work either as associated staff or an organisation or as a freelance/independent medical writer. To obtain any kind of opportunity, it is important for a medical writer to have an outstanding profile to project and attract the recruiter’s attention. The candidate should have both online and offline profiles. The profile must showcase your strengths, credibility and the works or assignments handled. To operationalize this, there are two important steps needed- Have a profile and Market the profile. Let us get into the details:

Step 1 – Have a Profile

So, what do I have in my profile? Well, everything that impresses a recruiter. Below are few clues:

  • Good knowledge of life sciences and medical subjects is compulsory for a medical writer. Do you hold a degree in life sciences?
  • Another important attribute that a recruiter might scan the profile for, is any kind of relevant certification. A formal training at reputed organizations adds value to the medical writer’s profile. Additional credentials of attending health workshops, regulatory conferences etc shows your aspiration towards the subject.
  • The recruiter will assess your writing, editing and analytical skills. Learn about different types of writings and documents involved in medical writing. There are various free online tools like Hemingway, Grammarly etc to improve your editing skills. Get familiar with Microsoft word, power point, and excel and with online databases like PubMed etc
  • Follow FDA and EMA updates.
  • Be ready for unfamiliar grounds a pharmacy-qualified medical writer should be also open for working on nutrition-related projects.
  • Having creative writing skills can be a gateway for numerous opportunities for a medical writer. Specifically, deliverables like posters, abstracts, presentations, and infographics demand the writers to possess exceptional creative skills.
  • Analytical skills and effective time management are other important qualities of a medical writer. A good writer reads numerous documents and understands them clearly and translates them into crisp and effective write-up in given timelines.
  • A medical writer is expected to remain accountable for every piece of work done and ensure the highest degree of accuracy.

Step 2 – Market Your Profile

After owning an awesome profile, you do not want it to be lying in your folder, do you? Have these ready, to help market your profile:

Resume: Prepare a resume not more than 2 pages. Highlight your writing projects. If you’ve taken a writing course, make sure that your writing course qualification stands out. Upload your resume in job portals and remember to note down the details of the recruiter every time you reach one.

Cover letter: A cover letter provides detail on your skill sets in a less than 400 words. The cover letter accompanies your CV or a business card as part of job search. Circulate your Cover Letter to the list of clients to keep them updated with your work. Do not over do or spam it.

LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is the largest professional networking platform. A professionally written LinkedIn profile provides an online professional brand of yourself. It can showcase your profile, expertise, achievements and skills to the recruiters and employers.

Website or a blog: Owning a website or a blog is a way to own a personal brand.Make sure your website is professional and well-branded. There are free tools like WordPress and WIX that are easy to operate and build a website. Apart from showcasing your writing skills, you can also use the website to practice your writing. Think about how you can add value to your website.

Networking: Networking is important for any medical writer’s success. Join medical writing associations, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Forums, freelancing sites and job portals. Be active and participate in discussions related to medical writing and healthcare communications.

Effective email writing: Email is an important tool for business communications. Learn to write a concise and professional email. Remember to include 4 important components:

  • A concise subject line in less than 10 words
  • Address the recipient by name with a proper salutation
  • Body text containing main message of the email
  • Closing signature, use your first and last name

We recommend an aspiring medical writer to spend close to an hour every day on marketing your profile. Think about various means and ways to position your profile so that you attract the right audience. There is a demand for skilled medical writers, an outstanding profile that demonstrates your writing skills can help it land on the right table.

Medical Writing

Online Databases That A Medical Writer Can Rely Upon

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Research is a crucial part of the writing, and good research skill is one among the essential qualities of a medical writer. Out of the time required for creating a write-up, typically 50% of the time is spent on researching the topic for relevant information. Effective research allows a writer to gain in-depth knowledge about the topic, source authentic information in lesser time and improve the credibility of the write-up.

Searching for relevant piece of information from the ocean of information available online is like looking for a needle in a haystack. It is a skill! Poor research skills in a writer, can be mentally exhausted, and can be potentially time-consuming and annoying. However, there are reliable online research databases that can help a medical writer overcome these hindrances. These databases allow the writer to narrow down their search to obtain focused information.

PubMedPubMed is a free search engine, a digital repository that has biomedical literature, life science journals and online books. It comprises of more than 30 million citations that may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher websites. The PubMed User Guide details various search options available in the database.

Quick tips

  • Combine the keywords using AND or OR operator to search the concepts. The word “AND” finds the intersection of the concepts,  “OR” finds any one of the concepts.
  • Field tags will limit the search to particular field. For example [ti] to search a title word, [au] to search an author name word etc.
  • Other filters of article type, timelines etc can be used for narrowing down the searches and getting search results that are focused and relevant.

EMBASE Embase claims to be the world’s most comprehensive biomedical literature database. It has biomedical literature from 1947 to the present day providing up-to-date biomedical information.

Quick tips

  • Search more than one word or phrase by separating them with OR and put them in brackets (heart attack or myocardial infraction or MI).
  • Look for the article link icon on the reference details to get the full text of the document.
  • EMBASE provides an option to print or email your search results.

The Cochrane Library – The Cochrane Library is a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties.They generate authoritative and reliable information, unconstrained by commercial and financial interests.

Quick tips

  • Search Different words with same root using * i.e.cardio* will search for cardiovascular diseases, cardiotocography, etc.
  • To search multiple terms, use AND to combine all terms | OR combines similar terms into one big group and NOT will exclude term from the search.
  • Add to search engine option saves your search history done so far.

In addition to the ones, mentioned above, there are other databases also that a writer can explore. Some examples include ERIC, EBSCO, EthOS, Web of Science, SCOPUS, etc. There are others which are domain specific such as PEDro for physiotherapy research, PsychINFO for psychology and psychiatry research, and CINAHL for nursing and allied health research.

These online resources have extensive information with smart filters that supports a medical writer in obtaining more accurate results. It is recommended for a medical writer to get familiar with these resources to obtain valuable studies for their work/projects. There are various health websites that claim to have reliable data, however, websites with the extensions .gov or .edu are generally recommended by medical community.