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How Nurses Can Earn a Living Writing at Home

Swap the scalpel for a pen (or keyboard).

Swap the scalpel for a pen (or keyboard).

What Type of Writer Do You Want to Be?

Many people have a vision of being a writer, publishing that best-selling book and becoming wealthy, but writers and writing careers come in many forms. For most, the image of a writer is centered around that best-seller, but many writers have lucrative careers producing all sorts of non-book-related work.

This kind of writing can be done part-time around an existing career or can form the mainstay of a writing business. I have been writing part-time for many years, but just over a year ago, I decided to go full-time and strike out on my own. It's been a process of discovery, and I aim to share what's worked for me.

This article examines three ways in which nurses can use their knowledge and earn money for the experience they have gathered. It was written by someone who does just that.

1. Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Writing

I would say that I earn about 20% of my income from creative writing and about 80% from non-creative work, which pays the bills. Of that non-creative work, I do the majority as a Nurse Analyst for Clinical Negligence, and a little Personal Injury. A Nurse Analyst can expect to earn between £20-£30 per hour.

This is quite a niche role, which could do with some explanation...

When something goes wrong medically, and a person decides to get lawyers involved to make a claim, often via one of the 'no win, no fee' firms, one of the first things the firm will do is to request the claimant's medical records. These can go back all the way to their birth, so they can form a substantial amount of pages.

Once lawyers have all the medical records, they send them to a company that will collate them, paginate them (number the pages) and create an index. The collation company then needs someone to look through all the records and create a chronology of the claim, and that's where the Nurse Analyst comes in.

The Nurse Analyst looks through all the records and picks out anything to do with the claim, writing a chronological report of what happened, drawing on their clinical knowledge. As an analyst, you would also be expected to create a summary of your report, for quick reference, and point out any missing documents that need to be requested.

Records are presented to the Analyst either online or as actual paper records and are sorted into files, or bundles of about 400-450 pages. As a rule of thumb, it takes about 2-3 hours to process each bundle.

Some Nurse Analysts do child protection work, and in that case, it takes around eight hours to process each bundle.

What You Need to Become a Clinical Negligence Writer

First, you need self-motivation. To make a success of your writing career at home, whether for creative writing or non-creative, the key skill is to have the motivation to get up every day and sit at the keyboard to get the work done.

Analysts will be given deadlines to work to for each case, and reports must be done by that time, to meet court hearing dates, etc.

You need to have excellent grammar and spelling ability, and being able to touch-type is a real bonus, but not imperative.

You will receive feedback about your reports, so some resilience to accept constructive feedback is important.

You would need to be organised in planning and completing work, recording and sending invoices, and on occasion have the confidence to chase up an invoice for payment.

A little reading around what is meant by 'Breach' and 'Causation' would also be useful.

You will also need:

  • Fast broadband.
  • A PC or laptop. Most companies use Window-based software, but a few Analysts use MACs.
  • If using a laptop you would probably want to consider an additional monitor, so that you can have your chronology report up on one screen and the medical record on the other.

How to Find Clinical Negligence Work

The best way is to type 'medical record collation jobs' into Google and take a look at the results. Lots of companies will come up, and a good place to start is to check out their websites. If they are hiring, most will have a 'work for us' button, and it's just a matter of sending your details.

Another way would be to make a "cold call," either by phone or via email, and take it from there.

Coffee breaks when you want them

Coffee breaks when you want them

2. Medical Transcription Writing

Transcription writers work from audio or video files and type up documents from these. In some respects, there is less critical thinking with transcription writing, but it can still be a lucrative career.

Putting 'medical transcription' into Google brings up many companies, and again, the best way to start is to look through their websites and click that 'work for us' button.

Companies all have their own requirements, some will want a Medical Secretary diploma and experience, but other companies are really happy to take on nurses and the work may be more varied than simply typing up letters or operation notes; for example, you might be typing out reports of NMC hearings.

Companies state that you can earn up to £40 per hour, but for this to be the case, you would need to have excellent typing speeds.

What Do You Need for Medical Transcription?

Most companies expect you to have a professional transcription package, which includes headphones and a foot pedal to control the audio files. A quick online search shows that these currently cost around £125 to buy.

Again, you will need fast broadband and a PC or laptop. Lots of companies stipulate a Windows package, and some stipulate that you have your own transcription software, but others will help you with this.

Some transcription companies require that you work a certain number of hours for them, others are happy for you to just accept work when you want it, as long as you meet deadlines for completion.

No need for a uniform, you can write in your pyjamas.

No need for a uniform, you can write in your pyjamas.

3. Writing Articles for Nursing Journals

This is probably less secure financially, but can earn an additional bonus. It also helps your CV stand out from the crowd if you can say that you've published articles in one of the nursing journals.

The big three UK nursing journals are The Nursing Times, The Nursing Standard and the British Journal of Nursing, but there are many more, usually specialised journals, such as Community Nursing, Practice Nursing, etc.

The best way to tackle getting an article published is to look at copies of the journal, to see what sort of work they publish. Tailor your article to their style and format, then send a cold email to the editor. Publications usually have a section on submitting your work, and it's important to adhere to their guidelines. They will also offer set fees for articles.

Readers' letters are often written by professional writers and can be a quick way of earning a few pounds. Finding a new 'take' on a subject, or experience is a good opening stance for a letter, and keeping them in the style of the Journal is important; Editors want something they can use straight away with little editing involved.

You could expect to earn between £25-£50 per letter, but often the money takes time to arrive in your account. However, it's always a bonus when it does arrive. I've had a reasonable amount of success with getting letters published and they don't take much time to produce.

Key Skills for a Writing Career

In a nutshell: Self-motivation, self-confidence and dogged persistence.