The One with the College Career Panel

Recently, I was asked to be a panelist for a career day at St Lawrence College for student nurses, paramedics, and personal support workers. Here's what they wanted to know about my career as a healthcare writer.

What is ghostwriting, and do you enjoy it?  

Ghostwriting is writing for another individual, with the final work being published under their name. It is a far more common practice than I ever realized. For example, most articles and books written by celebrities and high-powered professionals are actually written for them by someone else. 

Even though I am technically the writer, I consider my client the author of the final work—I use his or her expertise, experiences, ideas, and approach to create the first draft. Then we review it together and make edits and tweaks as needed. The final piece usually sounds a lot like the person I’m writing for—I just give him or her a huge head start by organizing the individual’s ideas and getting the first draft on paper. And yes, I really enjoy the entire process!


Being a ghostwriter, how do you make yourself known to other people to be able to do more jobs for yourself?  

Insightful question! Although 90% of my work is for other people, I continue to write under my own name for national magazines and online outlets. This allows me to have a portfolio of work to show clients. This type of work pays significantly less and I likely could not support myself if I only worked for mainstream outlets. My clients love the brand name recognition when I show them articles I’ve written for magazines they recognize. (I wrote about how doctors can find a ghostwriter here, in case that is helpful.)


How would you obtain information regarding mental health to write articles in a journal or newspaper? 

I do this in two ways: research and interviews. So for an article about mental health, I’d find the most recent relevant medical studies on PubMed. I’d also read provincial and federal reports. That would give me facts and stats. Next, I’d look for experts. These might be people with lived experience or these might be healthcare professionals. I’d contact them via Linkedin or email, explain what I’m doing, and ask to interview them. That gives me the human side of the story—what is the impact of this illness? It’s important to get information from several sources: the people living with an illness, the people caring for them (eg. family and healthcare professionals), and the people researching that illness. 


Do you always try to write about the problems that are faced commonly?  

I tend to write about topics that I’m curious about. I figure that if I find a topic interesting—or even confusing—then someone else must too! I don’t think a problem has to be common to be worth writing about. For example, I only know a handful of people in my life who have Type 1 diabetes. But if I write about that illness so that others can understand it and can imagine what it feels like to live with it, that is useful. My goal isn’t necessarily to write about common problems, but rather to make uncommon problems relatable.


What is one of your favourite medical pieces you’ve written so far?

My favourite piece is one that is not yet published. I’ve been working on it for a year. It is about trauma bay staff in a Toronto hospital who are changing how they work as a team to save more lives. I just got back my first draft from my editor—and I have a lot of work to do! (NOTE: This piece is now published. Find it here.)

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