Healthcare Writing

Colleen Shannon, Freelance Medical Writer



Browse some samples of my work here: you're also welcome to visit the publications list on my LinkedIn profile. If you don't see what you're looking for, please get in touch to request more examples.

Arthritis and emotions

Feelings Matter: Emotional Wellbeing and Arthritis

Highly commended, 2017 BMA Patient Information Awards

I was the principal copywriter for this comprehensive guide to the emotional impact of arthritis, a long-term condition that can affect every aspect of your life. It was a huge team effort with contributions from clinicians, Arthritis Care staff and people with arthritis. This evidence-based guide takes a holistic view and gives people practical ideas, so they can live they life they want.

Cancer services guide

When a child or young person has cancer, there is suddenly a bewildering new world to navigate. These guides help young people and their families understand what they can expect from NHS cancer services. The parent's guide to children's services was a joint effort by CLIC Sargent and NHS England. The Teenage Cancer Trust was another partner in this version for teenagers and young adults.

Palliative care

Along with other writers, I was proud to contribute to the relaunch of Marie Curie's website, as part of a great editorial team. This section is one example of my work on the project, which was highly commended in the 2016 BMA Patient Information Awards. I was also a principal writer for their new Palliative Care Information Zone for health and social care professionals.

Air pollution and health

It was an honour to work with this panel of leading experts, to produce Every breath we take: The lifelong impact of air pollution, a landmark report from the Royal College of Physicians. My role was to make this scientific material accessible to the public, the media and policy makers. I advised on the artwork and key messages, and wrote summaries to express these messages in clear and powerful English.

The People's Friend

One of my favourite assignments is writing a weekly health feature for The People's Friend. We have 400,000 loyal readers every week, and I enjoy keeping them up-to-date on all aspects of health. The latest medical advances, living with a long-term condition, staying active, eating well, and enjoying good mental health are all part of the brief. If you'd like to see some examples of this work, please get in touch.

Children and young people

Working with a children's author and a panel of experts, I helped the Patient Information Forum research and update their guide, Producing health information for children and young people. It includes tips on involvement and engagement, and working with clinicians, families, communities and schools. Case studies show excellent projects in the voluntary sector and the NHS. The update also covers the promise - and perils - of social media and digital technology. Have a look at the presentation of this work, at PiF's national workshop.

Respiratory medicine

As a key part of their Breathe Easy Week, the British Lung Foundation asked me to update their patient and carer guide on asbestos and cancer (mesothelioma). The work included research into policy across the four nations. I also updated BLF's patient information on interstitial lung diseases (commended in the 2014 BMA Patient Information Awards) and pulmonary embolism. All projects were required to meet the Information Standard.

Young people and cancer

This guide from Clic Sargent gives the basics about cancer, treatment and its side effects, for young people aged 16 to 24. It was extensively updated with the invaluable help of cancer experts, and teenagers and young adults who have experienced cancer themselves. I also researched and co-authored Clic Sargent's website information on relationships and sex (highly commended in the BMA Patient Information Awards 2016), and cancer and fertility. All of this work conforms with the NHS England Information Standard for user involvement, referencing and peer review.

Occupational heath

Macmillan Cancer Support's campaign on work and cancer is going strong and I’ve contributed to many of these projects. Click the link here to see Self-Employment and Cancer, a booklet that was commended in the BMA Patient Information Awards. I’ve also edited a guide for employers. Other contributions to this campaign included writing an e-learning programme, Can we talk about work? and an online tool kit for professionals who are helping people with cancer get back to the working lives they want.

Cancer information

Macmillan Cancer Support commissioned me to update their booklet Men & Cancer, which went on to be highly commended in the BMA Patient Information Awards. I also helped a large team update Macmillan’s guide on managing cancer information materials.

Medical training

To become consultants, trainee physicians must pass a series of examinations set by the Federation of Royal Colleges of Physicians. Since 2009, I've been writing the annual review about these exams. We've recently published a prospectus, too. I have written regular e-newsletters for senior physicians and trainees, and advised on strategic communications plans. You can also read our academic paper on the Federation's international work, in Clinical Medicine.

Information for parents

My work for the popular parenting website Babycentre was shortlisted for the Guild of Health Writers online journalism award. Read about parenting premature babies. I’ve also written about high-risk pregnancies, complications of labour, neonatal medical conditions and autism spectrum disorders in babies and young children. If you're wondering whether the little ones should use your phone or tablet, have a look at my article about screen time for babies and young children.


The story that brought rugby, boxing and ballet together under one roof turned out to be one of my favourite assignments, in my report on the country’s top dance medicine centre, published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. I've covered many other topics for the Society's magazine, such as care for teenagers, asthma treatment, and even horse therapy.

Special care babies

I helped Bliss create Your special care baby: A guide for families. I also wrote the original version of the charity’s flagship publication, the Bliss Family Handbook. Facts for fathers, breastfeeding, child development and critical care are other topics I have covered for Bliss.