By Dionne Crafford
What criteria would need to be achieved for medical writing to be considered effective?
Medical writing must be accurate (free of error) and concise (brief and free of superfluous detail), yet still engaging. The writer needs to convey a complex message to a target audience clearly and logically for interpretation.
To be effective, does the Medical Writer then need to be a subject matter expert within every single field of medicine medical writing services are provided? The short answer is no.
Writing abilities are not indicative of subject matter expertise, but rather the ability to present work in the best possible way. As a result, medical writers are often expected to write about topics out of their historical field of expertise (“comfort zone”). This requires a skill set involving both mental flexibility and a change in perspective. Personally, coming from an operational animal health background where I was a subject matter expert on a specific study type (and the procedures needed to conduct it) and mostly did writing related to those studies, the change in mindset turned out to be the most challenging leg of my transitional journey into Medical Writing. Luckily this skill can be cultivated and continuously honed through experience, considering the array of format types and fields of expertise a Medical Writer is exposed to.
Likewise, expertise in a topic does not always equate to expertise in explaining that topic at the required level of understanding. An experienced medical writer intuitively identifies gaps in their understanding of the subject at hand, and by asking subject matter experts the right questions, also identifies the most suitable means of communication.
I found the transition challenging. Experience gained makes future processes more comfortable, and an ever-expanding arsenal of technical knowledge (both in writing but also in fields of medicine) aids in identifying and proposing points to be emphasized, all the while considering the target audience and their interests. I believe experience and technical knowledge make a writer more productive. Yet I also believe every Medical Writer is inadvertently a student for life, a player in an orchestra where interactions with clients and subject matter experts are critical to achieving the desired result. An effective result. The key component to cultivating both effective and productive writing habitats is undoubtedly effective communication, both on and off the page. And with that, kindness and compassion between all players in the industry orchestra, amidst the myriad of daily deadline pressures.
Stepping into the field of Medical Writing I experienced a decrease in productivity. This spilled over to a perceived decrease in efficiency – the key messages, the slight nuances that easily comes with subject matter expertise often eluded me (and frankly often still do with every new project). But that is just it. We cannot and are not supposed to do everything by ourselves. We are but a key part of a larger symphony.
As Medical Writer I have “not arrived”. Not nearly. But I embrace the journey, the opportunity to learn and improve and constantly meet interesting and knowledgable people, and ultimately, to make a positive difference (on and off the page).
Vieira, K. 2022. Why Is Effective Medical Writing Important? https://themedwriters.com/effective-medical-writing-importance/. Accessed 18 August 2022.
Oxford University Press. 2022. Oxford Learner Dictionaries. https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/. Accessed 18 August 2022.