Chronicles of a Nurse Writer - When are You Going to Get a Real Job

Chronicles of a Nurse Writer: When Are You Going to Get a Real Job?

I was ecstatic when I accepted my first nursing job at the state psychiatric hospital. I considered pursuing psychology during college, but instead chose nursing. Therefore, being able to work in mental health nursing felt like the best of both worlds. That is, until I told the other nurses I worked with in women’s health about my new job. Instead of sharing in my elation, several responded with, “That’s fine, until you can get a real nursing job.” I heard this expression multiple times over the years and sadly; it was often from other nurses.

I’m a writer who became a nurse. Then I went full circle and became a nurse who writes. Yet, in many of my nursing positions I’ve been asked about my real nursing job, when in reality, I’ve always had one. The ability to support those suffering from mental illness as they struggled to attain better mental health wellness provided great rewards as well as personal and professional satisfaction. These rewards could almost be comparable to a nurse helping someone heal from physical wounds.

Where’s Your Stethoscope?

We all have our talents. Just because a nurse spends more time talking with a client, providing education, writing, or working with healthcare policy and procedures rather than providing hands-on care, it doesn’t mean they aren’t practicing nursing.

I’ve worked with a lot of psychiatric nurses and just like any other nursing specialty; some are better at it than others. Psychiatric nursing is challenging, and many claim they’d never want to work in this specialty. I can understand, because there are many specialties I wouldn’t enjoy, but they all provide an essential contribution to the nursing field. Luckily for me, I can research and learn more about these specialties by reviewing articles written by those who enjoy that area of expertise.

Don’t Nurses Wear Scrubs?

I chose to pursue a Master of Science (MSN) in nursing administration because I wanted to help improve the morale of nurses and make nursing work environments better. But when I began working in nursing administration, I continued to carry the stigma of not being a real nurse. Many are surprised to discover I’m a nurse since I don’t wear scrubs, and I sit behind a desk. It seemed that nursing administration was even further distanced than psychiatric nursing since I no longer practice direct patient care.

What Is a Nurse, Really?

Often I feel as if I still practice in psychiatric nursing, whether it’s within my job in administration, when writing, or providing education. These skills are essential when counseling an employee, talking to a patient’s family, or performing an interview. It’s almost as if I’ve never left the floor. I might sit behind a desk and work in administration, or write healthcare articles, but the essential communication skills from psychiatric and mental health nursing remain intact.

Isn’t Writing Just a Hobby?

I started writing as a hobby, and then morphed into fiction writing. From there I discovered freelance writing. It almost felt frivolous not to utilize my degrees and years of nursing experience. Initially the freelance communities I found weren’t healthcare writers—I didn’t even know those existed. When I discovered I could combine my nursing experience and education with my love of writing to work in freelance healthcare writing, it was a way to embrace all of my skills and feel complete.

Applying Nursing Skills to Writing

Part of my personal mission as a freelance writer is to educate family and friends in my small community that such a thing exists, and that freelance is a skill which doesn’t mean free. That writing is a talent, and healthcare writers are skilled with the knowledge they’ve gleaned from their education and experience, such as:

  • How communication skills honed in psychiatric nursing (or other specialty skills) are used for gathering data through interviewing, or to convey a message, or information, through writing.
  • How healthcare writing enables years of experience to be shared in a clear way to educate others, and provide helpful tips and education.
  • That a quality article usually requires research to ensure that material is pertinent.

So You Aren’t A Nurse Anymore?

Discovering a health care community like the Healthcare Marketing Network that supports this endeavor helped me no longer be bothered by confused looks when I tell people I’m also a healthcare freelance writer. Nor do I flinch when some say, “A writer? So you aren’t a nurse anymore?”  I might point out that someone had to write the article they found online to learn more about their newest medication, treatment or other healthcare related topic. Then perhaps I might mention that if that information is helpful and thorough, that a nurse just might have written it.


2 replies
  1. April
    April says:

    Hi Maureen,

    I stumbled across your article while doing some research into nurse writing and nurse informatics jobs. Great article, I love how you’ve shared your career path! It sounds like your job is very satisfying personally and professionally. I’m in my last semester for BSN and have been an RN for 3 years, currently working in case management for Medicare/Medicaid. Others have always told me that my writing is a strength, any advice you can give on transitioning into a nurse writing career?


    • Maureen
      Maureen says:

      Hi April,
      Thanks for stopping by! If you’re interested in writing healthcare content the best thing to do is just begin writing. Your writing should strengthen and improve the more that you write. Pitch articles or look for places to submit. Look for other nurse writers to connect with, read all you can on the subjects you’re interested in, take an online course, and/or find a coach. There are a lot of resources in the Healthcare Marketing Network and their FB group. Good luck!


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