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Hang around any online groups for healthcare professionals, and you’ll see the topic of non-clinical careers come up fairly regularly. Most of the time, our colleagues are asking how others have made the jump from clinical to non-clinical.
This is almost always followed by some variation of “what exactly is it you do as a clinician in a non-clinical setting?”
While there are many non-clinical jobs out there for someone like you, this post will focus on my own story of how I got into medical writing.
I’m a PA (physician associate) who now works exclusively non-clinically, a career move that started with, and continues because of, medical writing.
Medical Writing With No Experience
We all have to start somewhere, and that includes experienced clinicians venturing into a new field. Although being a healthcare professional is not a prerequisite to medical writing, your clinical experience is certainly an advantageous and relevant asset.
A medical writing certification is available, but not required, to get started. In fact, it seems most medical writers who choose the certification path do so after gaining some experience.
The same goes for taking medical writing courses online. Your specific need will depend on your baseline writing abilities or desire to hone your skills before commissioning your first work.
Earning Extra Income by Medical Writing
As a newly-minted PA-C, I carried a bone-crushing load of student loan debt. Preferring my bones capitalistically uncrushed, I wanted to pay down my debt as fast as possible. I was living frugally, making the most of my CME allowance and other work benefits, and learning as much as I could in my first clinical job.
Still I felt an economic need to earn additional income. I had plenty of ideas, like speaking at conferences, taking paid medical surveys, and industry consulting. However, some of these required a lot more experience than I had at the time.
Attacking my student loans, hitting retirement savings goals, covering rent, and squirreling away enough for a down payment on a house seemed impossible on a new grad PA’s salary.
My First Steps into Medical Writing
My first paid work in the capacity of medical writing was for a medical education app called Prognosis. I knew of it because I used the app as part of my study plan in PA school. I loved the case-based format for learning, and even more so as an author. They don’t award category 1 CME credits (yet), but as a student, that was none of my concern.
My writing for Prognosis was a bit serendipitous, as I did not really consider myself a ‘writer’ of any kind. They had an in-app call for contributors at a time that I happened to notice, and to which I responded.
That’s when the lightbulb in my head lit up. I thought I could replicate this initial success by turning it into a process.
My Process for Finding Medical Writing Clients
Prognosis needs physicians, nurse practitioners, PAs, and other medical professionals to write, edit, fact check, and supervise the process of creating high-quality educational content.
I hope this doesn’t seem too obvious, but once this fact sank in for me, I realized that this was not only true for Prognosis, but every other medical education content provider.
This led me to CME writing, which is my bread and butter these days. I went on to contribute to a few CME podcast episodes with HIPPO, wrote board review questions for Board Vitals, and saw my name published in print in CORE Content CME activities.
How did I find these clients? For the most part, I had previous positive experiences with their medical education products. I like to try out a variety of CME providers, so I had a robust mental rolodex already when I needed to find another potential client to contact.
I had no special ‘in’ or connections at first. This meant I had to search potential client's websites for contact information or freelance postings, and manually reach out to them. Of course, a fair amount of Google searches and browsing specialized job boards for clinicians was involved, too.
Medical Writing for Medical Professionals
If you are a medical professional looking to earn some extra income, make a transition to non-clinical work, or just get paid to keep up with (and share) medical knowledge, then medical writing is worth considering.
As a clinician, you already have a level of experience that others starting out in the field lack. I decided to go into medical education and CME because it felt like the best fit for me, offering opportunities to write about the medical topics that most interested me. Medical writing courses can be helpful, but are not necessary for everyone.
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