Understanding the Difference Between Nurse Content Writers and Nurse Medical Writers

Understanding the Difference between Nurse Content Writers and Nurse Medical Writers

Nurses have the opportunity to specialize in two distinct roles: content writing and medical writing.

As the nursing profession has continued to evolve, more nurses are redefining just where they want their careers to take them. Lack of work-life balance and more demands at the bedside have left many nurses burned out, disenchanted, and wanting to carve a new path. 

Knowing the difference between Nurse Content Writers and Nurse Medical Writers may help you find how best to use your health-related professional knowledge in electronic and print communications. 

When you think of writing as a nurse, most people will associate that with the seemingly never-ending amount of charting nurses do in hospitals, long-term care, and many other healthcare settings. However, true to their creative selves, nurses have created another specialty: the nurse content writer

This article will discuss the difference between nurse content writers and nurse medical writers. Keep reading to learn how your education and specialized background can give you the tools to write your way to flexibility and freedom in the job place.

What is a Nurse Content Writer?

Nurse writers can work in hospitals and research centers and write for health-related publications and educational materials aimed at consumers. They can do this on a freelance basis or while employed. While freelancing puts a nurse in charge of what they wish to write, the client will determine the deadlines. 

Nurses are learning the world of freelancing opens up a new world of flexibility they haven’t had in traditional settings. Freelancing helps them to:

  • Grow their own independent business
  • Choose the focus area they’d like to specialize in, such as ICU, trauma, pediatrics, etc. 
  • Take the complexity of medical language and simplify it for patient health management purposes.

And this is just the beginning!

nurse bringing books and a backpack

What Do Nurse Content Writers Specialize?

Blog posts:  Blog posts are frequently the first way nurses break into the writing arena. It can be their blog or aimed toward healthcare professionals or patients. Often, blogs increase SEOs to draw traffic to the nurse’s website.

Articles Are part of a publication such as a magazine or newspaper. Nurse writers utilize their knowledge and background to help educate the public.

E-Books:  Provide books in electronic form, making it easy to do word or subject searches. Nurse writers are perfect for authoring these as they are experts at the subject matter.

Newsletters:  Newsletters can be as varied as the nurses who write them. They can range from government agencies, for example, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and target audiences such as cardiac patients or other chronic conditions. Nurses provide added value to newsletter content because of their backgrounds and knowledge. Communicating less formally between nursing units to keep “up with the news” is another use for newsletters frequently done in hospitals.

Web content:  Nurses are known for having to be adept at the change in the world of medicine and so are masters of self-development. Learning the language of SEO is a skill nurse writers are finding opens more doors as they provide specialized content for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) websites to help draw consumers. 

Nurse Author/Historian: There are also nurse historian jobs where nurses enter a non-traditional world of writing scripts or consulting over them for medically-based television, movies, and media. With a nurse historian/author, nurses can write and act as consultants. We’ve all seen shows where they’re doing it “all wrong.”

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Nurse Writer?

No specific certifications other than your RN designation and experience qualify you to be an independent freelance nurse writer.

To become a nurse writer, you will need to complete either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, after which you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination – RN (NCLEX) and apply for a license in your respective state. 

Several states now have participation in what is known as compact multi-state licenses allowing nurses to practice across state lines without getting separate licenses for each one.

To become a knowledgeable nurse writer, you must have several years of nursing practice. There are many areas, such as medical-surgical, various critical care areas, cardiac, trauma, pediatrics, obstetrics, neonatology, mental health, long-term care, and the list goes on. Most nurses will eventually decide to be specialized.

Nurse Medical Writer

Medical writing allows registered nurse writers to provide materials typically aimed at healthcare providers or health-related businesses such as pharmaceuticals or educational institutions. 

Some nurses will eventually transition into academia as faculty members and participate in research. They may also work in large teaching hospitals alongside researchers as their “research” nurses, exposing them to abundant knowledge and experience in a particular field.

group of nurses in a discussion

What Do Medical Writers Specialize?

Medical writing can be as varied as the specialties a nurse writer’s background is in. Nurse medical writers offer detailed information in several mediums, such as professional publications, academic curriculum editing, and contribution to book publishers, among many others. Some examples include:

  • Abstracts: These are concise, detailed summaries of a research paper. They follow a formula and conclude the research results.
  • White papers: Using the art of persuasion is often the focus of White papers in healthcare. For example, they are presenting new ideas, procedures, or products.
  • Continuing education materials for healthcare professionals
  • Medical and scientific journal articles: With nurses continuing to get higher degrees and more certifications, their qualifications for writing articles in medical and scientific journals also increase. You will see examples of nurse writers’ work in many top medical journals, such as the “Journal of the American Medical Association” (JAMA) and many others.
  • Grant proposals: Nurses use the art of persuasion to be experts at writing grant proposals. The writer must convince the selection committee. Research involves the need for funding. Nurses can secure these funds by following the strict rules for grant writing.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Nurse Medical Writer?

Medical writing can be highly specialized and usually requires advanced educational degrees such as a Masters or Doctorate. Many programs offer these degrees completely online for those working nurses who otherwise would be unable to attend campus classes.

Experience in research and evidence-based practice methods pertaining to healthcare professionals and medicine is beneficial. Additionally, nurses need to have years of front-line experience in order to provide knowledge and guidance to their readers.

About the Author

Kimberly Hennerfeind, RN
Kimberly Hennerfeind, RN

Kimberly Hennerfeind, RN has almost 30 years of experience focusing primarily on NICU, pediatrics, and legal case review. She lives near Nashville, TN with her husband, and has two grown sons, twin granddaughters, Boston terriers, and German shepherds.

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