Healthcare Writing

Colleen Shannon, Freelance Medical Writer


Blogging tips for doctors

I meet many doctors who want to write, but they are held up because they don’t know how to get their work published.

Blogging is an option to consider, especially if you want to venture beyond the limits of traditional academic publishing. It's easy to get started, and the flexible format allows your writing style to shine through.

Think about your goals - why do you want to write? Blogging might get you where you want to go, especially if:

1. You want to further your career. Whether you are interested in medical politics, clinical leadership, or a higher profile in your specialty, blogs will make you more visible and set you up as an expert.

2. You want to help patients. There’s a lot of junk on the internet. Giving patients reliable information is more important than ever.

3. You want to help your colleagues. Maybe you have advice to share, or you want to advance the goals of an organisation that’s important to you.

4. You must tell the world about a burning issue. Forces in society shape our health, and your message can be very effective because doctors are so well respected. Before you plunge in, pause and take a note from Ibsen because campaigning can be a hard road.

5. You are getting bored. Writing offers a new intellectual challenge and keeps you mentally sharp.

6. You want to make a career change or expand your areas of work. If you are moving into a new field, researching your blog will help you learn the landscape. You’ll make new contacts and raise your profile.

7. You love writing. Some people simply love words, language, and ideas. The wonderful thing about writing is the absence of barriers. There is nothing to stop you. If you love writing, do it.

How to go about it

If you’ve decided to have a go at blogging, here are the steps.

Cover yourself. Publishing has its potential downsides. Make sure you understand and minimize the risks from the start. Get insurance. Check the GMC guidance on social media.

Plot your content plan. This is the fun part. Decide who your audience is. Think about the topics you want to cover, and list them out in order. Plan a calendar for publication and try to stick to it.

Decide where to publish. There are so many possible outlets. What about the website for your hospital, clinic, Royal College or Faculty, or favourite charity? Ask the person in charge of communications for the organization. Getting published on a news or journal website gives you great exposure and you might get paid. Approach the editor. If you want to self-publish, here is a helpful introduction to some of the technical options. Or hire a professional website designer to set it up for you.

Do your research. Readers expect a lot of value from blogs these days. They are not interested in random wanderings (unless you are amusing, a rare gift). They want facts and useful information. Your blog needs to have substance, so start digging. I like these content guidelines from Google.

Write your blog. There are many ways to approach a writing project but at the end of the day, you just have to sit down and get the words out. Write as many drafts as you need to.

Have someone review your work. If your blog is being reviewed by an editor before publication, that’s ideal. Otherwise, have someone you trust check it over for spelling, grammar and general readability. Ask for their honest comments on the style, tone and content.

Take a deep breath and post your blog!