How To Hire a Medical Content Writer
Writing medical content often involves presenting complex scientific concepts in precise, understandable language. A medical content writer must produce articles about health care that are factually accurate, research-based, and error-free. A writer who is otherwise competent may not have the necessary professional and academic qualifications to produce quality medical writing. The professional writers for hire you need are out there, but finding them often requires diligence and perseverance on your part.
Why Do You Need a Medical Content Writer?
Maybe you are in public relations at a pharmaceutical firm and need to inform both physicians and the public about a new therapeutic you are releasing. Perhaps you manage a small medical clinic and want to encourage new patients to seek treatment there. Or you may be a government official needing to explain a public health hazard and new safety protocols to your constituents. These are all examples of situations in which you might need a medical writer.
But is it really worth the trouble and expense to hire a medical content writer? Perhaps you could write the content yourself. Maybe you should get one of the doctors you work with to do it, since you know that they already have the necessary expertise.
There are several reasons why handling content creation yourself rather than hiring a medical writer may not be a satisfactory solution:
- Time Investment: Even a short article can take about an hour to write. Writing longer or multiple pieces can quickly absorb a majority of your workday.
- Physician Burnout: Doctors, especially clinicians, already have enough demands on their time. They may not be willing or able to take on a writing assignment, especially if it threatens to take time away from seeing patients.
- Lack of Writing Skills: You may not have the writing ability to create effective medical content on your own. Even if you are a good writer, you may not know how to optimize content for online publication so that your audience can find and engage with it.
A professional medical writer has the skills and experience to create well-written, accurate, engaging content for you. By hiring a medical content writer, you free up time to attend to your main duties within your organization.
What Type of Medical Content Writer Do You Need?
If a patient comes to see a general practitioner with a condition he or she cannot treat, the general practitioner has an obligation to refer the patient to a specialist with more extensive education in that area. Medical writers are similar to health care providers in that some specialize in a particular area, while others work more generally.
Specialization for a medical writer can relate to areas of medical practice. Even more significant, however, is the type of writing that the content creator is most experienced and comfortable with. There are many different ways to classify medical writing, but most materials fall into one of three broad categories based on rhetorical purpose.
1. Educational Writing
Educational medical writing is created to inform an audience about a specific topic. The audience for medical writing may be health care professionals or the general population. Examples of educational medical writing include materials for continuing education, texts for medical students, and newspaper articles about a medical topic relevant to the public.
2. Promotional Writing
As with educational writing, promotional medical writing can be created either for patients or physicians. However, the purpose is not only to inform but to advertise something such as a medical service or a new drug. In other words, when you not only want your audience to know more but to take a certain action, you want to look for a medical content writer who can create promotional material for you.
3. Regulatory Writing
Perhaps you run a research facility that conducts medical studies and submits the results to the federal government. The highly scientific documents you submit to report the findings are examples of regulatory writing.
What Should You Look for in a Medical Content Writer?
The qualities you need in a medical content writer can be expressed through the three E’s: Education, Experience, and Ethos.
Not all medical writers are health care providers with advanced medical degrees, and it is not necessary to limit your search to physicians. However, because of the academic nature of the work, a competent medical content writer should hold at least a bachelor’s degree. It is not necessary for this to be in the sciences or language arts, but it may be to your advantage if it is. In addition to a four-year degree, many writers also have a certificate or extra training specifically in medical writing.
In addition to education, a qualified medical writer should have first-hand experience in both writing and working in the health care field. This does not necessarily have to be as a physician. Medical writers can gain the necessary experience as a registered nurse, physical therapist, or in other areas of medical communication.
One way to determine whether a medical content writer has the necessary experience is to look for a credential awarded by a professional medical writing organization. One of the largest of these is the American Medical Writers Association, which confers both the AMWA Certificate and the Medical Writer Certified credential. The latter is the more elite of the two and requires that MWC holders meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree
- At least two years of full-time work experience in medical writing or a related occupation
- A passing score on the credentialing exam
- Letters of reference from colleagues, clients, or supervisors
There are qualified medical writers who do not hold any certificate or credential. However, an MWC credential tells you that the candidate has met the rigorous standards for education and experience described above.
A medical writer who is not a physician probably has not taken the Hippocratic Oath. Nevertheless, anyone who works in health care should demonstrate both a knowledge of and a commitment to applicable ethical standards. A medical writer may demonstrate these by maintaining patient confidentiality in accordance with HIPAA and similar federal laws, and by using only reliable and recent sources of information obtained through careful research. A medical writer should also take care to avoid intentional plagiarism and unintentional duplication when creating content.
There are other desirable qualities to look for in a medical writer, such as a significant online presence and a demonstrated ability to meet deadlines, but these are the essentials.
How Do You Find A Medical Content Writer?
While there are a wealth of writers for hire listed on job boards and employment sites, most of these do not have the qualifications and experience you are looking for in a medical content writer. Therefore, you should bypass those and take the following steps instead to find the qualified professional who best suits your organization.
1. Decide Whether You Want a Freelancer or an In-House Writer
In-house writers and freelancers each have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you have a consistent volume of work to justify the expense of hiring a full-time in-house writer, that might be the better option. Some organizations find it advantageous to work with freelancers regardless of the volume of work. As opposed to hiring an employee, which involves paying regular wages, benefits, onboarding costs, etc., you only pay freelancers for the specific work they do, which can make it more cost-effective. A disadvantage of hiring a freelancer is that the vetting process can take a long time, 23.8 days on average, but once you have established a professional relationship with the freelancer, you can continue hiring him or her as needed.
There are a lot of factors that go into the decision to hire in-house or work with a freelance medical writer. Nevertheless, it is a decision you should make early on because it may make a difference in where you should look for candidates.
2. Search Specialized Sites
In addition to the traditional online job boards, there are also services designed to connect you specifically to qualified professional medical writers. Finding and using these sites first can save you a lot of time and frustration.
In addition to certifying and credentialing medical content writers, the AMWA also offers multiple resources for employers looking to hire qualified candidates. You can browse a directory of freelance medical writers or post an opportunity online and wait for candidates to get in touch with you.
3. Verify Credentials
Once you have identified some likely-looking candidates, you should then go over their resumes carefully and verify that they have indeed had the education and work experience that they describe. Contact universities, credentialing organizations, and references to confirm that the information on the resume is complete and correct.
4. View Writing Samples
Most professional writers put together a portfolio of some of their representative work. A portfolio may be either a tangible or online document. The latter is more common, and if you are looking for a medical content writer for the web, more relevant. Reviewing samples not only allows you to confirm that the work is accurate and error-free, it also allows you to see how experienced and skilled the writer is at creating the type of content you require.
When you review samples, you should also check that the content is completely original and free from plagiarism. If the content is online, there are multiple online plagiarism checkers that you can use to confirm originality quickly and easily. Many are available to use for free.
5. Ask Questions
At this point in the process, you probably have a pretty good idea of which writer(s) you most want to work with. A face-to-face interview can help you confirm your choice and find out more information about the writer’s availability and preferences.
To make sure that you can depend on the writer to complete and return the work on time, you can ask questions such as these:
- What does your work schedule look like?
- How many articles/words are you comfortable writing per day?
- What is your experience working under tight deadlines?
You can also confirm that the writer is willing and able to write the type of pieces that you require by asking about the medical specialties or type of writing that he or she enjoys the most. It is also courteous, and could save both you and the writer a lot of trouble later on, to ask if there are any topics the writer is particularly uncomfortable writing about.
What Are the Advantages of Working With a Content Agency?
The process of properly vetting a medical content writer can take some time. Working with a content agency for medical writing is an alternative to seeking and hiring writers yourself. When you work with a content agency such as BKA, most of that work has already been done for you. We check resumes, verify references, and evaluate writing samples. We perform regular checks for plagiarism on the material our writers produce. For more advanced content, such as medical writing, we offer optional editing services as well.
BKA’s writers come from all different backgrounds, professionally and personally. Some are current or former health care professionals with the education, experience, and ethos needed to produce quality medical writing. All medical content writers received thorough training in creating content optimized for search engines. Find out more about our managed services, which allow you to order large volumes of content and create a custom style guide, among other advantages.