Health and medical writing: what do they mean to me?

After ten years in the field, I often get asked how I ended up as a health and medical writer, especially without a medical degree.

If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ll know that writing has always been close to my heart, even from a young age. I realised early on that my love of words would shape my future. So, why this niche?

What do health and medical writing mean to me? And, how do I approach my work as a freelancer in this field? 

Let’s delve into the answers.   

First things first: What is health writing?

It’s a good question – and a good place to start. 

For me, health writing is a broad category encompassing the creation of content that provides information and advice about health and wellbeing to the general public (or, patients). This could cover information about health conditions, mental health, nutrition, exercise, preventative care, lifestyle choices, and much more. 

Health writers like me produce words that are accessible, engaging and easily understandable to a diverse range of audiences, regardless of medical knowledge or health literacy. That might include writing blog posts or LinkedIn articles; marketing materials, advertisements or consumer-focused content; nutrition or fitness-focused content; patient educational materials; features or news articles; and PR materials, like press releases. 

In fact, these are all things I’ve written for one client or another over the years. 

People often ask what areas of health I write about. ‘Health’ is, after all, a broad spectrum. I don’t claim to have a focus within one specific field, but there are certain areas I am passionate about – like women’s health, to name but one. 

One of the true perks of freelancing is the freedom to choose. To run with a current topic dominating the news or a health conundrum that has remained ambiguous for years. That’s the beauty of this niche. 

Is medical writing the same as health writing?

How about medical writing…is there a difference? Short answer, yes there is. 

Medical writing is a specialist form of communication, directed to healthcare professionals, researchers and regulatory authorities. Medical writers (also, like me) translate complex medical information into technical documents like scientific research papers, clinical study reports, or regulatory submissions for drugs. They are focused on conveying complicated scientific principles with accuracy and precision; while also telling a compelling story. 

Not an easy ask!

To be a good medical writer, ‘there is a need to understand both the underlying science and the expressive art, and to know where one should stop and the other should begin’ (read more here). This quote sums it up perfectly. 

As a medical writer, there is often a balance to tread between commercial and scientific interests. The reporting of science is based on a wealth of data and complex ideas, so writers must strive for clarity in communication. But, there’s a middle ground to be struck between simplification of messaging and oversimplification, so the detail is not lost. 

There’s also a question of context. Medical writers help readers to understand scientific data not in isolation, but in the context of what is already known about a subject. 

Striking a balance between all of these elements is where the magic lies and the key to delivering an excellent piece of work. It is a challenge, but it’s one I love to get my teeth into. 

What is my writing focus, and who are my clients?

The main differences between the health and medical writing are the types of work, the audiences and the level of technicality required. I do both. I write for the general public and patients, and also for more technical audiences, including healthcare professionals. 

Working for myself means that I can tackle a variety of projects in the health, medical and wellbeing fields for a variety of audiences, across a variety of health topics. It is this diversity of experience that really motivates me. 

Why did I choose health and medical writing?

I’ve always had a love of words and a thirst for knowledge. I am a great researcher. I am motivated by complex communication challenges, by the broad array of topics to write about, and the diversity of potential audiences. I am passionate about health, because the concept pervades every aspect of our life, public and private.

Having the power to make a difference to people’s lives with the words you write, to educate, advocate, inspire, change behaviour and attitudes…is a powerful thing.

My decision to write as a freelancer means I get stuck into those topics on a daily basis. It’s my career, my source of income, but the responsibility matters too. 

Misinformation is a frustration to me; there are so many voices, opinions and verdicts out there at the click of a laptop key. I’m passionate about authenticity, reliability and research. In a recent blog, I delved into how important it is that we get our communications right. We have a great responsibility.

How do I work?

I promote my services to businesses in the health, medical and wellbeing fields that need support with writing words, whether that be to educate, inspire, lead, sell, or something else.

As I mentioned earlier, my skill lies in understanding both the underlying science and the expressive art, and knowing where one should stop and the other should begin. I’ve applied this successfully across many different copy and content formats, including:

  • Scientific manuscripts 
  • Sponsored content, e.g. journal articles
  • Patient education / engagement materials 
  • Advertising collateral (for Rx and OTC)
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Press releases
  • Health blog posts 
  • Website copy 
  • Social media posts
  • Grant proposals 
  • Medical education materials, including written, videos, podcasts and more
  • Slide decks 
  • Meeting minutes
  • Strategic reports 
  • And more…

My approach varies depending on the project, but there will always be:

  1. A detailed brief stage: this may involve me gently challenging the brief, where needed.
  2. An extensive research stage: this varies depending on the needs of the client. Sometimes it’s just a Google search (https://scholar.google.com/). If a more detailed literature search is needed, I’ll use a tool like PubMed (PubMed). 
  3. A writing stage.
  4. Several rounds of review: this again varies depending on client needs. It’s worth noting that this sometimes includes internal compliance/legal review on the client side.
  5. Publication: sometimes my work ends up in the public domain, but often it does not.

Thank you so much for reading. I’m always open to networking and I’d love to hear more about your drive and motivation to write within the health and medical world. 

  • Take a look at my previous blogs to learn a little bit more about my story and some of the topics I’ve written about. 
  • Drop me a line if you’re interested in one-to-one mentoring from a health writer with a decade of experience.
  • Reach out if you want to connect on a health writing project.
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Let’s talk.

Drop me a line to find out more about me, my rates and availability, and how we could work together. 

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A note from me:

I work Tuesday through Friday. I’ll aim to get back to you within 24 hours during the working week.