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Transitioning away from medical writing  

 

RAS
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Joined: 12 months ago
Posts: 5
August 12, 2020 5:28 pm  

Hello,

I'm currently a regulatory medical writer working for a device company and like a lot of things about it but am starting to burn out. I'm hoping this can be a starting point for me to know what else is out there before doing deeper research into other careers.

Background

The main reason for the burnout is unrealistic deadlines. My workload might be par for the course but there were a couple of months this year where I was working at least 6 days a week, with Mon-Fri consistently being over 12 hours. Given family circumstances this meant working past midnight almost every night and often past 2 AM (basically "normal hours" followed by family time followed by re-starting at night). People may have different standards, but I thought I was using my time in a smart fashion and not taking forever due to inefficiency. I am currently in another one of those cycles, am exhausted, and have started falling asleep before starting the "night shift". From what I understand, unrealistic deadlines are common throughout this career path and not just company-specific.

The intangible benefits (aside from liking writing) are using my science background and knowing that what I'm doing is contributing to improving people's lives. The tangible benefits are working remote (currently absolutely required but subject to change in a year or two) and flexibility (ie, I could break my day up between work/other obligations). If I understand correctly, compensation isn't part of what's discussed on this forum but for what it's worth I think it's decent.

Question

Are there alternatives that can leverage medical writing's benefits but without the (at least in my opinion) consistently crazy deadlines?

Thanks for any input! 


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SBrian
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 5
August 12, 2020 8:43 pm  

How long have you been in this specific role and this sector (medical writing)? Are you within a team performing similar work and do you have seniors, peers or individuals you might be able to delegate to?

Your post suggests that you may be well suited to the job and therefore looking into an entirely different career may not be the best solution. Perhaps if your burden could be eased you may find this remains a good position for you. I do not know this field. That said, it sound that by sharing your workload, by receiving some guidance (if you are newish to the role) or by a substantial re-appraisal of the workflow by your superior (s) your current situation could be improved markedly.


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RAS
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Joined: 12 months ago
Posts: 5
August 12, 2020 11:42 pm  

Thanks for the response.

I report to a supervisor and loosely to her supervisor and ultra-loosely to his supervisor. They're aware of the workload and have actually tried to ease it for our entire group but it's ultimately up to the way higher-ups (not to mention regulatory agencies). It's their deadlines that trickle the stress down through the ranks. Those couple of months I referred to in my original post were actually splitting the workload evenly with a colleague. We were put on the project to ease somebody else's workload by putting off our projects with less urgent deadlines (which inevitably became more urgent as time went on). As my own deadlines came closer I was given help. And so on.

I think my supervisors would make it easier if they could. In fact the main reason I haven't quit yet is that I appreciate them for that and wouldn't want to leave them hanging with even fewer team members. If I do quit I'd try to make it at a point where someone could actually handle getting another project or 2 (or more).

Regarding the other parts of your question, I've been in this particular role approximately 2 years and in medical writing for about 7 years. I was at my last job for about 4.5 years and while I did some regulatory medical writing it wasn't all I did. The deadlines weren't as bad as here but they were bad enough. That's partly why I think it's this whole career path rather than just my company. I also think it's the entire career path based on colleagues' experiences. One of my former colleagues offered to put my name in for an opening but warned me that I'd have no life. Another former colleague was considering leaving full time employment for contract work because she'd get paid for overtime. Another colleague emphasized overtime pay as a bonus for contract work. My sister-in-law is a medical writer and she would have to go on virtual meetings during holidays. I vaguely remember hearing that she had some 90-hour weeks (those were rare but still occurred). These are all regulatory positions so maybe other sectors aren't as bad.

 

This post was modified 1 month ago 2 times by RAS

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DX
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 627
August 14, 2020 8:21 am  

Hi RAS,

I understand the nature of Regulatory Affairs, on the Pharma side it can be equally intense work-load wise, as you and I clearly understand, Health-Authority filing, inquiry and response are very time-line specific, add to that number of engagements, and dossiers/response for each and well, your situation.  I can imagine the Device side being fairly intense if not presumable more with all the different catagories and file times, technical documentation and so and so and so. So, my point is, I get you.

That said, don't expect green grasses, that's the nature of Regulatory Affairs.  Device or Pharma - you can see even if you climb up the ranks, next couple levels its still intense and yes, the peaks and lows are routine.  What eased my Regulatory work (I was a cross-functional member of a Regulatory led work stream) was I had a contract organization to support me. Actually, I had 2 agencies, so my even though I was not Regulatory I had medical writers (like you) doing my contribution, my job was just oversight from my function, I was 'clinical expert' consistent with R&D Clinical Development lead role. So you can try to see if you company can go down that route, short-term.

As for Medical Writing, you are in Device, can you consider transitioning to Pharma?  And some careers there that could fit you needs as I read is: Medical Information. And in Pharma. 

 That should tick-box all your tangible and intangible needs, better Quality of Life, Remote Options, and fill your need to leverage you scientific background.  Target Medical Information (first research it).  Basically, for a Therapeutic Area Portfolio  you're producting responses  for external HCP inquiry - its a Medical Affairs function that has very external face albiet externally, it's basically "in-writing" the company position on the product's science.  There are other aspects of the job you can be involved in, such as helping set the evidence platform for a brand, establishing and optimizing MI plaforms, internal training, and some cases interfacing with HCPs reactively for the provision of information, to name some. There are both proactive and reactive componants to the job and you're a meaningful part of a Brand Medical Affairs Strategy and can be activated during product Development. just to name a few. 

Another job you can look at is Medical Writing for Publications. Pharma side.  A lot of the medical writing work per se is on the 3rd party agency side but rarer cases you can find an internal medical writer in a company, the usual case is that the Pharma company will have a Publications Manager, who internally will coordinate the Publication Plan (internally and generation of the publication with the medical writers of the agency.  The next step if you like that is Publications Management where then your more a project coordinator/manager but with the sound technical publications medical writing experience to do the job effectively.  Plus, a good Publication Manager is very cross-functional in the job and can be an essential member of any Product or Brand team - bordering core member. 

Either path MI or Pubs you have future development opps.  I think those are you low hanging fruit, both can still be rigorous but I dont think as bad quality of life wise and reward.  I'm one of the people who has to review and approve MI materials and am part of a review and approval team for pubs (sometimes I'm an author if its my study, i'm the medical responsible for some clinical studies).

Anyways - and stretch roles, look at Medical Communications, pubs are a part of that,but they may do more training tools, symposia/webinar content, support medical platform building, and setting communication strategy to include congress plans from a Medical Affairs perpective working highly cross-functionally on a Brand or Product team.

And of course Medical Science Liaison roles.  But maybe not the best place to be now with Pandemic.

If you need to know more about Medical Affairs, some one posted a program here call Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS).  I've seen content and maybe for a tentured person like me not in my interest but for someone like you, maybe the right thing, at minimum expose you to what Med Aff does, and shows that you did something formally to research a field and a widely accepted "certificate" for what it's worth - getting more traction and acknowledgement in the area. 

Good luck, ask me any questions.

Dx


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RAS
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Joined: 12 months ago
Posts: 5
August 14, 2020 5:24 pm  

THANK YOU DX!! That was quite possibly the most helpful response I've ever received on any forum.


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DX
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 627
August 17, 2020 8:03 am  
Posted by: RAS

THANK YOU DX!! That was quite possibly the most helpful response I've ever received on any forum.

Glad to be of help RAS. The other path I forgot to mention:  Drug Safety/Pharmacoviligence in a pharma company/or contract research organization who provide also those services to a pharma. 

There are high medical/technical writing components there - I do think can be a bit of fun albiet can be very very deep in the science, you can contribute to many documents and activities such as  varied Saftey Update Documents, Core Safety Documents, Core Company Data Sheets, and other surveillance actions, to include clinical trial safety support/monitoring later on.  You'll write varied narratives on diverse safety events captured, etc. etc. and summarize findings from literature and studies etc. etc. Had an old buddy that was head of a Medical Writing function within a Drug Safety group so that's a surrogate of medical writing actions on going there.  That person had a few reports/ agencies under them as well to support.   So yet another area to explore.

DX


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