Do You Need an Active License to Become a Nurse Writer? And Other Questions

freelance writing for nurses healthcare license niche nurse-writer rn Jul 06, 2021

Today, I’m answering all your most burning questions about what it means to become a nurse writer. Here we go!

1. Do you need an active license to become a freelancer?

No, you absolutely do not. Keep in mind that the vast majority of health writers have no clinical background whatsoever. Clients value the insider knowledge of healthcare and health conditions that nurses bring to the table, whether they’re currently licensed or not.

That said, having a current license definitely is an advantage. Clients really value content they can publish under an “RN” byline. In other words, something like an article on diabetes written “by Ima Nurse, RN.” This is because Google rewards such content in the search engine rankings. If you’ve allowed your license to lapse and it’s not too much of a hassle to reinstate it, I do recommend it.

2. Why is this only for RNs? What about LPNs, LVNs, NPs? What about other healthcare professionals like MDs, physical therapists, and dental hygienists?

Let me start by saying this: ALL healthcare professionals are welcome at RN2writer!

When I started this business back in 2014, it was a blog about me and my journey to becoming a professional writer. I named the venture “RN2writer” because I am an RN, and I was moving “to” being a writer. The “2” also denotes that I consider writing my “second” nursing career. Not that you care about any of that, but I wanted to explain the history of this business’ name.

On the blog (and in my current courses and coaching programs) I shared the steps I took in my journey to become a nurse writer because I knew that others could replicate them. Unfortunately, though, this name can appear to exclude other nurses and clinicians. That was never my intent.

The strategies I teach will work for anyone interested in becoming a professional writer. I mainly work with nurses because my mission is for nurses to “own” the healthcare communications space. But the blueprint I lay out in my programs will work for anyone, and I’m happy to help anyone succeed as a writer!

All of that said, nurses (any licensure) have a distinct competitive advantage over non-licensed healthcare professionals because – see what I wrote above about Google. If you’re a non-licensed healthcare professional, you will need to market your services a little more keenly. This doesn’t mean you can’t succeed as a writer if you don’t have a license. As I wrote earlier, the vast majority of health writers have no clinical background whatsoever. Any insider knowledge of healthcare that you bring to the table will be valued by clients, make no mistake about it!

3. What kind of writing do nurse writers do?

The types of writing I focused on in my writing career were health journalism and content marketing writing, and those are the types of writing I teach in my programs. Let me give you a few examples:

You can find tons of examples of what I’ve written during my career as a nurse writer by performing a Google search of my name. But the types of writing I did are not the full story. Nurses also can excel at writing scientific and medical assets, such as pharmaceutical application components and journal article editing. I don’t teach those types of writing because I never did them, but those certainly are options for any nurse who wants to become a writer.

4. How can you share patient stories without running afoul of HIPAA?

When I say “nurse writer,” the first idea that comes to many nurses’ minds is writing about their experiences as a nurse. In truth, that’s not what I mean at all.

Being a working nurse writer doesn’t involve writing anything about your personal experiences, so the issue of sharing protected health information becomes moot. Being a freelance writer means writing the assignments given to you by editors (on the journalism side) or client (on the content side). You write the assignment to their specifications. As you can see from the list above, most of my work did not involve sharing any personal details about my life, my nursing career, or my patients.

I say “most” of my work did not include this because I did, in fact, win an Online Journalism Award in the “online commentary” category in 2010 for my blog about caring for my father as he declined and died of dementia. This blog, “Dad Has Dementia,” was a paid assignment for Caring.com. But that’s the only time I’ve ever shared personal or career information/experiences in an assignment.

If you want to become a writer in order to share life stories about your nursing career, then you should consider pursuing essay or memoir writing. My friend Amy Paturel’s essay classes can help you get started.

5. How much nursing experience do I need to succeed as a writer?

My answer to this is going to make some people unhappy: Not very much.

Whenever I give this response, some nurses turn blustery about it because they don’t understand how freelance writing works. They have an idea that this industry works similarly to the nursing industry, in which clinical experience equates to competency, which equates to increased compensation and job opportunities.

But freelance writing does not require you to be competent as a nurse. This industry requires you to be competent at writing, marketing, and customer service. What the industry demands of nurses who write is simply that they possess the common knowledge base that all nurses share as a result of their education and student clinicals.

If you have specialized nursing experience that makes you a bona fide Subject Matter Expert, then you can charge a premium over what another nurse might charge to create the same content, but even a nurse with no work experience brings value (that common knowledge base) to the table that a non-nurse does not.

As I’ve said many times, the vast majority of health writers do not have any healthcare background. Any nurse who has earned any kind of degree already has a competitive advantage over every non-nurse health writer out there. Clinical experience is the icing on the cake.

What other questions do you have about who can be a nurse writer or what this career involves? Post them in the comments!

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