Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Part 1: Using the Slump to Get Over the Hump

Guest Blog by Johanna Lackner Marx, MPH, MSW
InQuill Medical Communications, LLC
CME Training for Medical Writers

There is no doubt that the recession is affecting a lot of freelance medical writers. A friend of mine, who writes consumer health and patient education articles, recently told me that her business has decreased forty percent. Like a lot of us, she chose the freelance/entrepreneurial route over steady employment in order to be her own boss and have more control over her time and the type of work she does. Now, she says, she’s lucky to get enough new work to cover her basic expenses. She spends her day combing the Internet, sending out her CV, reaching out to contacts, and making cold-calls to strangers. Sound familiar? Last week during a well-deserved rant of frustration, she told me, “Until things turn around, I might as well use this time to learn statistics so I can finally tell the difference between a risk ratio and an odds ration instead of faking it.”

Using the slow down in the market to learn another skill is a good idea and a lot of writers are doing it. This year AMWA is offering over 100 educational sessions during the 3-day annual conference in October so members can “…gain new areas of expertise that can enhance their skills in the many facets of medical communication.” In addition to AMWA’s workshops, Diego lists eleven medical writing programs in his e-book Becoming a Medical Writer. He recently shared with me that his website, medicalwritingtraining.com has gotten a record number of hits in the past six months. The interest and demand is there.

When students fill out their enrollment form for CME Training for Medical Writers, they are asked to state why they decided to take my course. I’ve been surprised by the uniformity of responses. A few students have been successful regulatory or clinical trials writers, but want to work in a field where there is a more immediate sense of mission. Others are just starting out as medical writers and have decided they want to learn how to do CME. But the majority of students, like my friend, are accomplished medical writers who have taken a financial hit and want to add to their skill set so they can be more marketable.

In my next blog, I will tell you about some of the recent changes in the CME industry and how these changes have created a great opportunity for medical writers who know the regulations, the CME development process, and how to create effective content that physicians learn, retain, and use in the clinical setting.

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