What is medical writing exactly? Taking a big picture look at different medical writing paths from clinical to creative

Medical writing can feel like a confusing field to navigate when you start to learn about it.

The term “medical writing” encompasses a broad spectrum of writing styles and purposes within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, often leading to confusion about its precise definition. From crafting scientific manuscripts and clinical study reports to developing patient education materials and regulatory documents, medical writing spans a diverse range of content aimed at various audiences, including healthcare professionals, researchers, patients, and regulatory agencies.

If you’ve been researching online, you’ve probably already learned that there are many different types of medical writing. One of the first things to explore is which writing type interests you and suits your background and experience.

Below is a list of common medical writing types and where you might find yourself working if you enter the field.

Regulatory writing

Regulatory writing is a cornerstone of the medical writing field, focusing on crafting documents essential for obtaining regulatory approval for new drugs and medical devices. As a regulatory writer, you’ll be responsible for creating clear, accurate, and detailed documents that guide regulatory agencies like the FDA and EMA through the entire development process, from initial research to clinical trials and beyond. Working closely with experts from various fields, you’ll ensure that all necessary data and information are included, contributing to the approval of potentially life-saving treatments and therapies. It’s a career path that demands attention to detail and offers immense satisfaction in knowing you’re playing a vital role in advancing healthcare.

Where you might work: 

  • Regulatory affairs departments in pharmaceutical companies
  • Biotech and medical device companies
  • Contract Research Organizations (CROs)
  • Regulatory consulting firms
  • Government health agencies (e.g., FDA, EMA)

Example writing project: Draft a comprehensive clinical study report for a Phase III clinical trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of a new drug for Type 2 diabetes mellitus, ensuring compliance with regulatory guidelines and collaboration with clinical and statistical teams. If you’re interested in regulatory writing, I recommend exploring the topic further at AMWA.

Clinical research writing

Clinical research writing involves creating documents that communicate the findings and outcomes of clinical trials and research studies in the medical field. As a clinical research writer, you’ll play a crucial role in translating complex scientific data into clear and understandable language for a variety of audiences, including healthcare professionals, regulatory agencies, and patients. From drafting clinical study reports and manuscripts for publication to preparing informed consent forms and patient education materials, this field offers a rewarding career path for those passionate about both healthcare and writing, with opportunities to contribute to advancements in medical knowledge and patient care.

Where you might work:

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Contract Research Organizations (CROs)
  • Academic research institutions
  • Medical device companies
  • Biotech firms

Example writing project: Draft a manuscript detailing the results of a Phase II clinical trial investigating the efficacy and safety of a novel treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, adhering to journal guidelines and collaborating with clinical investigators and statisticians.

Medical marketing and advertising

Medical marketing and advertising involves creating content and campaigns to promote healthcare products, services, and organizations to various audiences, including healthcare professionals, patients, and consumers. Advertising and promotional writing emphasizes persuasion, highlighting product benefits and differentiation and aims to influence audience behaviour. As a medical writer in this field, you’ll play a vital role in developing compelling and accurate messaging that effectively communicates the benefits and features of medical products or services while adhering to regulatory guidelines and ethical standards. From crafting engaging website content and brochures to scripting multimedia advertisements and educational materials, medical marketing writing offers a dynamic and creative career path for those interested in blending healthcare knowledge with persuasive communication skills to drive awareness, engagement, and ultimately, better health outcomes.

Where you might work: 

  • Medical communications agencies
  • Pharmaceutical companies’ marketing departments
  • Healthcare advertising agencies
  • Biotech firms
  • Medical device companies

Example writing project: Create an advertisement campaign for a new asthma inhaler. This would include writing clear and compelling content for digital ads, social media posts, and a patient-friendly brochure, highlighting the inhaler’s ease of use and rapid symptom relief. 

Journal publication

Journal publication writing involves creating manuscripts for submission to scientific journals to communicate research findings and contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge. As a medical writer in this field, you’ll collaborate with researchers and scientists (often from pharma, biotech, or medical device companies) to translate complex data and study results into clear and concise articles that adhere to the journal’s guidelines and standards. From drafting research papers and review articles to preparing abstracts and cover letters, journal publication writing offers a rewarding career path for those passionate about scientific inquiry and communication, providing opportunities to contribute to the dissemination of groundbreaking research and innovations in healthcare.

Where you might work: 

  • Academic institutions
  • Medical journals and publishing companies
  • Scientific societies and organizations
  • Freelance writing and consulting
  • Research institutes

Example writing project: Draft a manuscript for a clinical trial study on a novel cancer treatment. As the writer, you would collaborate with researchers to synthesize study data, literature reviews, and statistical analyses into a cohesive manuscript following the journal’s submission guidelines. You would ensure clarity, accuracy, and adherence to scientific standards while effectively communicating the study’s methodology, results, and implications for cancer therapy.

Medical education writing

Medical education writing (also sometimes known as MedEd, medcomms, or medical communications) is a specialized field where writers create educational materials for healthcare professionals, students, and patients. This can include a range of content, such as textbooks, e-learning modules, continuing medical education (CME) programs, slide decks, and patient education websites or brochures.

This can often include the creation of material that MSLs (medical science liaisons) use to educate/inform healthcare professionals about new research or products, and can also include assisting in the preparation of KOL (key opinion leader) slide decks. In the medical field, KOL slide decks are presentations created by influential experts to convey complex scientific and clinical data to healthcare professionals. Their purpose is to share authoritative insights on new research, clinical trials, and emerging trends. These slide decks are crucial for medical education, influencing clinical practices, guiding treatment strategies, and supporting the adoption of new advancements by leveraging the expertise of respected leaders.

In general, medical education writers are responsible for translating complex medical information into clear, accurate, and engaging content tailored to the audience’s knowledge level. They often work closely with medical experts to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information, often requiring a strong understanding of medical concepts and excellent communication skills.

Where you might work: 

  • Medical education companies
  • Medical communications agencies
  • Continuing medical education (CME) providers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Academic institutions and universities

Example writing project: Draft the language for a disease progression visualizer tool for a pharmaceutical company’s educational platform. This interactive tool aims to visually illustrate the stages and key milestones of a specific disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis. As the writer, you would collaborate with medical experts to research and outline the disease progression, including symptoms, biomarkers, and treatment options at each stage. You would then develop concise and informative content, along with engaging visuals, to convey this information in a user-friendly manner. The final product would provide healthcare professionals and patients with a comprehensive understanding of the disease trajectory and the importance of early intervention and appropriate management strategies.

Is MedEd right for you?

Does MedEd writing resonate with you? If so, you might be interested in exploring MedWriter Career Launch, the course I created to help aspiring medical writers land their first roles quickly. Intakes happen periodically throughout the year, but you can always sign up to be on the waitlist if the course is currently closed for intake.

Lindsay Ulrich

Lindsay Ulrich

Lindsay is the creator and educator behind MedWriter Bootcamp and is passionate about helping aspiring medical writers find work they love.

Content transparency: Some of the content on this blog post has been generated with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) tools. While these tools have aided in drafting certain portions of the content, the overall planning, prompting, editing, and finalization of each post have been guided by the author to ensure accuracy, relevance, and alignment with their expertise and personal experience.

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