Have you ever wondered what a medical writer does every day? Or what a typical week looks like for a medical writer?
I’ve been at my company for about 5 months now, so I thought it’d be a pretty good time to write a post like this.
Before I start describing what I did every day this week, I want you to look at this table. The information’s taken from the American Medical Writers Association: Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Medical Writer:
|What do medical writers write?||Who hires medical writers?|
|Abstracts for medical journals and medical conferences|
Advertisements for pharmaceuticals, devices, and other products
Advisory board summaries
Continuing medical education materials
Decision aids for patients
Health care policy documents
Health education materials
Magazine and newspaper articles
Medical and health care books
Medical and scientific journal articles
Poster presentations for medical conferences
Regulatory documents, including FDA submissions
Slide presentations for medical conferences
|Associations and professional health care societies|
Authors or investigators
Clinical or contract research organizations (CROs)
Communications, marketing, or advertising agencies
Health care organizations or providers
Medical book publishers
Medical device companies
Medical education companies
Medical schools or universities
News outlets for health/medical news
Peer‑reviewed medical journals
Trade journals for health care professionals
As you can see, there are so many different products that medical writers work on, and so many different companies and workplaces they can exist in.
I work on training materials, slide presentations, and health education materials for a medical education-related company!
So, what I share in this post isn’t representative of what ALL medical writers do. It’s simply what my life looks like in this particular week.
My cat was having some loose stool issues so my partner took her to the vet in the morning and picked her up in the afternoon. It turned out she was fine, but it was a sad day not having her around.
I signed into work, and worked on a slide deck that acts as the outline for content we’re making for a client – we’ll call it Client Project A. It was basically a lot of literature and website-reading and tedious referencing.
I had a 15-minute meeting with the project manager, product manager, and the product designer to discuss a product we’re about to bring from medical writing to the production stage. It’s about a neurodevelopmental disorder – we’ll call it Neuro Project A.
It was kind of hilarious because this was my first meeting of this type since I joined the company in March, so I left the meeting when the project manager left the meeting, even though I was supposed to stick around to discuss the project in more detail with the product designer and the product manager. So the product manager had to call me back into the meeting! We had a good chuckle about that.
Something I had written didn’t make sense to the product designer, so I spent about half an hour after the meeting clearing up the writing so the product designer knew what to do with it. It was for a figure that described how much research was being done on the neurodevelopmental disorder it was about, and I hadn’t specified something important about the graph.
Neuro Project A was one of the first medical writing projects I had done for the company, back in April actually, so I hadn’t done a great job on that front. This totally depends on the company, but sometimes, things get pushed to the wayside for more important client work and other priorities.
I always eat lunch at around noon, so I won’t write about it in the rest of the days in this blog post. I meal prep every Saturday, so I pulled one of my meal prepped lunches from the fridge and ate it along with some pineapple, an apple, and a piece of Dove chocolate.
For the rest of the day, I worked on various aspects related to the two projects I had mentioned earlier – Client Project A and Neuro Project A. More research, more referencing, thinking about how the user might require certain explanations, etc.
Nothing else came up that day in terms of other projects I had worked on.
I signed off of work and welcomed my cat home from the vet. I fed her a Churu treat as a reward and spent the rest of the evening setting up a new Notion account to organize my blog and Twitter content.
I signed on and worked on revisions for another medical writing project I did back in April. It’s for another neurodevelopmental disorder – we’ll call it Neuro Project B. The product manager finally got around to reviewing and recommending revisions on the version I created.
It wasn’t a high-priority project, so it was good for training me on the writing process for my particular company, and that’s why it was off to the wayside until now.
Yeah, I get a lot of neurodevelopmental disorder projects because my Ph.D. research was in neuroscience, and so out of the medical writers in my company I’m the one with the most relevant background knowledge.
That doesn’t mean I know anything about the neurodevelopmental disorders I work on at my job!
I’d always heard of them, but I learn from scratch for each project. That’s why I said in my other blog post that the only skill from grad school I use in my non-ac job is lit search.
This is when my company has its weekly meeting of everyone involved in the process of creating our products. It’s a pretty large meeting and I think I said, “got it”, one time.
My camera’s usually off, unless I have the mental energy to be showing my face.
For the rest of the day, I worked on the revisions I mentioned earlier, for Neuro Project B! It was a nice and slow day. I like being able to indulge in learning about something really in-depth so I can write accurately about it!
After work, my partner and I caught up on the newest episode of Only Murders in the Building.
After that, I played with my cat and worked on my blog. I also put some mini bell pepper seeds I’d soaked into a ziploc bag to germinate.
My partner also booked tickets for our second vacation we have planned for the fall. Just another DINK getaway.
I started off by doing more of the revisions on Neuro Project B.
My manager told me that I should revise some things on Client Project A, which she had reviewed, so I went to work on that for a bit.
I had a Zoom meeting with my manager and the product manager. I’d never been in a meeting with just the two of them, my two managers basically, and it was fine. They’re both very nice. We talked about Client Project A and made sure we were on the same page.
I had a stomachache so I didn’t know if I could make it through the meeting but I rallied and got through it.
I idiotically clicked on a sketchy website while I was doing research for Neuro Project B and got malware on my work laptop. I emailed IT and they remotely accessed my computer and fixed the situation from start to finish in under 30 minutes. So efficient!
IT at my Ph.D. school took weeks to respond to tickets and months to resolve anything.
Last week, I was assigned an autoimmune disease project, Autoimmune Project A, and I had been slowly chipping away at it, and got around to doing more of that. Once again, it’s on a disease I’d barely heard of and knew nothing about. Not to mention, now it’s not even directly related to the brain anymore.
I still barely know the difference between B cells and T cells and other immune cells, so I got to work catching up on the entire field of this disease and what I need to know to create our product about it.
Another slow afternoon of research and writing! And finding accompanying visuals, which I enjoy a lot.
My partner and I played Wingspan and then made some plans for the weekend! We’re excited to go back to this botanical garden near us as well as my favorite little bookstore.
I also refreshed the hummingbird feeder on our balcony.
I start work on Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 AM. It kind of turned out that way because I had been on a client project for a couple months that had 8:00 AM meetings on Thursdays. So, I simply shifted my schedule from 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM to 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Thursdays.
That client project ended, but I still didn’t mind working from 8:00 AM, and never changed it back.
I worked on Client Project A, making some more changes.
This is when my company does the weekly medical writers’ meeting. I attended with my camera on and we talked about mostly random things to catch up and make sure no one had any questions about the work they were doing.
My company has a few editors, who are the last step before the medical writers’ product drafts are handed off to the next step of product creation, and I got one of my old draft versions back from the editor – one that I had worked on in April or so. I Tweeted about it – a neurodevelopmental disorder that’s super well-known. We’ll call it Neuro Project C.
I guess with client projects slowing down for the summer, the backlog of these disease projects we have can get moving.
I finished the edits and versioned up the Neuro Project C and went back to working on the Autoimmune Project A. Lots of paper reading, writing, referencing, and finding pictures and figures to accompany the text and help the learner.
Wow, the editor got back to me with ANOTHER neurodevelopmental disorder project I had done back in March or April, Neuro Project D, so I edited their recommended changes and finalized/versioned up that one too. That’s the end of my day.
I finally got around to watching the last episode of Our Flag Means Death while eating dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed that show with my entire soul.
My partner and I went on a walk and I walked about 5000 steps, so that was something. Then I watched a bunch of home decoration YouTube videos.
I also hit 7000 Twitter followers. I started my account 7 months ago. Wow!
I only work half days on Fridays (9 hours x 4 = 36 hours, + 4 hours on Friday for 40 hours in the week). This is a year-round thing for my company. We have Fridays off because it’s just not a really productive time for people anyway. I love it!
I worked on Autoimmune Project A until about 11:30, when I suddenly got a notification from the editor that they had finished editing yet another neurodevelopmental disorder project I’d done a few months back – Neuro Project E! This person’s on a roll!
Clearly, you can see that I never dwell on one topic for very long, and I’m exposed to many different diseases and conditions on a regular basis. To me, it’s so much better than staying on one topic for years, even months at a time.
I finished the edits on Neuro Project E, versioned it up, and updated my timesheet with everything I did for the week. I keep track of it on a Sticky Notes app on my work computer’s desktop, and I actually took a picture of it with my phone to loosely refer to when I wrote this post!
I ate my last meal prep lunch and went onto my balcony to water my plants and do some pruning.
My pepper seeds had germinated in their ziploc bag! I’ll pot them up in seed-starting cells this weekend.
I have a Skype call with my parents who live abroad planned.
I’ll order Uber Eats for dinner, take a nice shower, and do my nails, another one of my favorite hobbies.
Hopefully that was insightful.
As you can see, I switch between quite a few projects within the span of a week, even in one day.
I’ve learned so much genuinely useful information about various disorders and conditions since I’ve started my job, stuff I never studied during grad school.
That’s been one of the coolest things about my medical writing job!
Until next time!