By Kathleen Sanchez
Technical writers who work in healthcare and medical industries (often referred to as medical writers) specialize in communicating health-related topics effectively. Medical writing is a great career option for technical communication students who want to work as writers or editors in a medical-related field.
According to the American Medical Writers Association, medical writers create a variety of documents, including journal articles, manuals and user guides, presentations, white papers, and education materials. Depending on the position, writers may need to understand medical concepts, terminology, or clinical data.
Medical writers can find positions in healthcare organizations, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and biotechnology companies. Employers need writers to convey technical health-related information accurately and clearly and comply with regulatory guidelines. Medical writers must also tailor how they present information for specific audiences--whether those are professional healthcare workers, patients, or the public.
Faith Peralta is a technical writer at nThrive, a software company that works with healthcare providers, and the president of the Lone Star Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. At nThrive, Faith writes content for software applications that hospitals and healthcare providers use to manage their revenue cycle. She also writes the online health guide that teaches people how to use the application and the release notes for the software updates.
"I'm writing for the hospitals," she said. "That's who my audience is, the clients who are using the application to help their patients."
Medical writers may also work with different teams and subject matter experts. Faith's work falls under software development, and she works closely with the team who creates the application. She also interacts with the client-facing team to understand the perspectives of the clients who will use the software.
"Ultimately, what you're doing affects patient care because you're contributing to these clients who are taking care of the patients," she said.
Faith "broke into" tech comm when she entered the healthcare industry with her writing skills. "I didn't start out as a technical writer," she said. She learned the components of healthcare and the revenue cycle on the job.
"I learned from my colleagues, from researching online, I learned the Microsoft style guide, from tech comm blogs and things like that."
Faith advised that students understand the type of content they will write about and whether that requires a level of medical background knowledge. "If you are interested in writing in the medical field, you should research what that looks like and what things you need to know."
"You have to be persistent and be curious," she added. "I think just network, research, and talk to people. People will always respond positively if they see that you're passionate about something."