A Day in the Life of a Medical Writer
Before I begin, let me say that there are several types of medical/science writing roles, and the projects one works on within each role, can vary.
I work for a healthcare communications agency on the commercial side of an oncology product. Projects I work on can be physician-or patient-facing, for sales training (so the sales reps can actually get physicians to use the drug), or for the marketing team (so they know what they need to know to market the drug effectively).
I walk in every morning, pop my laptop onto its docking station, and the first thing I do is check my email. Between 5-6pm the evening before, and 8-9am when we all start our day, a whole slew of emails may have come in. It’s important to read every email too, because you want to keep up with all outstanding projects on your team.
This definitely means lots of time staring at your Microsoft Outlook, and reading things that may not apply to you, but you won’t be sorry you did it.
Next, I handle any requests whether it’s to update my supervisor on my progress on a particular project, or follow up with a request that I’ve made (i.e. like a project that has gone to our studio team to get pretty).
It’s very important to stay on top of anything that has your name associated with it 1) because you never know when someone will ask you about it, and 2) project ownership is important in this industry.
Once all immediate requests are taken care of, I move on to my project load. I ask myself what, out of the list of things that I need to get done, is the most important. This should be based on deadlines.
Then, I prioritize the remaining items, so that I can move as quickly as possible through the list. Also, by doing this, if my boss asks me what’s my capacity (medical writer speak) to take on another project, I can answer truthfully and accurately.
I’m often moving back and forth between projects. If one is out for review with my boss or with the studio team, I start on the next project. When I get it back, I restart that project again and so on and so forth, until I get everything done. Rarely do I work on things that can be finished in one day, so this can go on for days at a time.
A small bump in the road to ultimate productivity are meetings. We have internal status meetings, client status meetings, meetings to discuss upcoming projects, meetings with the creative/studio team, live meetings with the client to review deliverables, etc. While they are often purposeful and great learning experiences, if you’re ‘meeting,’ you’re usually not ‘writing.’
Another bump in the road, and I alluded to this earlier, is the never-ending stream of emails you will receive throughout the day. Several times a day, I stop what I’m doing to read emails from team members and our clients. I also have to send quite a few myself for the purpose of updates or to get, or disseminate, relevant information. It just goes with the medical writing territory.
At the end of the day, I come to a good stopping point in a project, or I finish it up and send it on for next steps. Depending on what’s going on, I’ll check in with my boss or teammates to make sure I’m not needed for anything. I then log off my handy dandy laptop, pop it off its docking station, and pack up for the day.
Some days I’m tired, some days I’m energized because I finished something or checked a bunch of stuff off my to-do list, but every day, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and learned.
Insert a 30-60 minute lunch and a few short mental health breaks here and there, and there you have it. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? It’s not! In fact, it’s never boring and I get to do new things all the time! Medical writing is a dynamic and enjoyable career. If you think you would like to become a medical writer, start writing!