Q&A Medical Writing

Q&A MEDICAL WRITING

Medic Footprints had a chat with George Buckland, recruiter of medical writers and editorial talent, on behalf of medical publishers and medical communication agencies. Read the interview.

GEORGE, CAN YOU OUTLINE THE EDITORIAL JOB OPTIONS THAT ARE OPEN TO MEDICAL DOCTORS ?

The area is wide in that there is many specialist areas that includes :

  • developing regulatory material during the clinical trial process of a drug
  • preparing material for a conference such as speaker slides
  • editing primary papers prior to submission to peer review journal
  • writing material to educate doctors on a disease area and the drug developed by a pharma company
  • writing educational modules for doctors and nurses Continuing Medical Education
  • writing training material for pharmaceutical sales reps
  • editing material for medical textbooks
  • editing content to be used in a range of digital assets – from care pathway guidelines to the wide
  • range of digital health content for patients and health care professionals

HOW RELEVANT IS A MEDICAL DOCTOR’S KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE TO HEALTHCARE PUBLISHING AND MEDICAL COMMUNICATIONS?

Where it is relevant is in understanding how to craft copy – known as the story or key messages – in language that resonates with a working doctor. In some cases being a medical doctor is essential – such as clinical editing of clinical material for use in CME material and Clinical Decision Support – this is where the medical doctor is the final signatory before material enters peer review.

CAN ANY DOCTOR HAVE A NON-CLINICAL JOB IN THESE SECTORS? ARE THERE ANY PERSONAL / PROFESSIONAL TRAITS OR ATTITUDES THAT WOULD MAKE SOMEONE UNSUITABLE FOR A CAREER IN MEDICAL PUBLISHING / COMMUNICATIONS?

Not every doctor can excel in these industries. One of the most important things is the ability to accept criticism from someone who is not a medical doctor – this might be a brand marketing manager in a pharmaceutical company or an editor without a scientific background. One needs to remember that publishing is a commercial environment, and as such, the opinion of a pharmaceutical company or the opinion of the publisher prevail.

These are the aspects that some doctors may struggle with because often the doctor’s word is the final word in a clinical setting. It is also important to remember you will be starting as a junior and you will face competition for jobs.

IS IT ESSENTIAL TO HAVE A PORTFOLIO OF PUBLISHED WORK BEFORE APPLYING FOR JOBS IN MEDICAL WRITING /EDITING?

One needs to show some evidence of an interest in writing and editing – this can be through the maintenance of a professional blog or having written for a student or professional publication, contributing papers to medical journals, writing patient leaflets, presenting papers at conferences.

WHAT ARE THE ENTRY LEVEL SALARIES AND FUTURE PROSPECTS ?

Starting salaries range from £20,000 to £30,000 depending on whether the post is in book publishing or medical communications. Book publishing is at the lower end of the starting salaries.

Prospects are good – the industry offers much scope for development and salary growth – for example a medical writer in a medical communications agency with 5 years experience will earn £50,000 to £60,000.

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