An essential, and often overlooked part of the work on clinical trials is medical writing. It is involved at the start and end of the study, as well as for all changes to regulatory documents throughout the trial. In this first part of a series on medical writing, we highlight the skill set needed for anyone pursuing this exciting and rewarding career path.
Medical writing combines scientific rigor with writing creativity. In addition to mastering writing and editorial skills, medical writers are highly analytical and able to organize ideas and infer conclusions. They have good communication skills as they are constantly interacting with people such as statisticians, regulatory affairs managers, and clients. They are able to efficiently organize their work, participate in multiple projects in parallel, and cope with strict deadlines. On the technical side, they are highly proficient in interpretation of clinical and scientific data, have excellent English skills and are able to produce writing material in various formats depending on the target audience. They are familiar with medical terminology and conditions, and often have a high understanding of statistics as well as the regulatory environment. They welcome criticism about their writing, improving their output by incorporating suggestions and comments from clients and coworkers alike.
Most medical writers come with a degree in life sciences such as medicine, biology or pharmacy. More than 50% of medical writers have doctoral degrees, as scientists commonly switch to medical writing after doing a PhD or later during their postdoc career. Sometimes, it is also possible for people to go into medical writing from non-scientific fields, for example, from being a translator; a lot of clinical trial documents often need to be translated into individual languages of different countries where trials are conducted. In this case, they come with good writing skills and need to learn medical terminology.