Even when a nurse is satisfied with their job and skill set, there are many nurses who are talented in areas outside of their work. For those who are writers, there is a growing opportunity where they can combine their expertise in nursing with their talents in writing. The best nurse writers can translate nursing practice into interesting, sensitive, and effective language that informs and influences readers.

Know Your Audience

An essential component of nurse writing is to write for the reader. It won’t be effective to write a piece about disease using jargon if the audience consists of novices or laypersons. Similarly, it is wasteful to elaborate on the meaning of fundamental language when the audience consists mostly of experts. A nurse writer discussing heart disease would write a different way if their audience consists of nursing students vs. writing for cardiac nurses. Fortunately for nurse writers, the publisher will make clear who will be reading it.

In addition to adjusting the language to the audience, there should be a specific tone of the writing. Most textbook publishers would not appreciate content written in a conversational tone. On the other hand, blogs, including informative blogs, should not be written academically. A successful nurse writer will write in accordance with the context.

Know the Content

It may not be wise to accept assignments that cover topics outside of one’s expertise. However, when covering a topic that they do not specialize in, a nurse writer can consult with experts, and if possible, develop the content in the format of an interview. For example, a labor and delivery nurse asked to write about heart disease should consult with outside sources. In some instances, it is best to turn down work when a nurse is not qualified to cover the subject and does not have adequate resources.

Furthermore, as every nurse is well-versed in applying the evidence-based practice, nurse writers should be well aware of the quality of their sources. The type of citation will depend on the character of the content; but no matter the context, any technical information discussed or claims made should be supported by valid sources. Most nurses have access to academic databases, particularly if they work for teaching hospitals; therefore, they should favor this resource over basic web searches whenever possible.

Know Your Limitations

In order to be effective, nurse writers have to navigate deadlines, the politics of writing, internet trolls, and stringent fact-checking and sourcing. In addition to their own lives, which may include full-time work as a nurse and a family, the time needed to write must be available to meet deadlines and create articles worth publishing.

Nurse writing at its best is a joyful extension of the practice of nursing. For those nurses who are enthusiastic about their work and talented in writing, nurse writing can be a fulfilling channel of creativity and income that allows them to combine their talents. Nurse writing enables nurses to extend their knowledge and experience beyond patients to readers.

Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR

Nancy Swezey received her BSN from Columbia University. She now practices in New York City in the operating room where she has worked as a staff nurse, and currently as a care coordinator specializing in head and neck surgery. Nancy is also pursuing her advanced practice degree at CUNY Hunter where she assists the faculty as a research assistant, focusing on nurse education and module development.

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