High-Tech to Healthcare: Changing Industries in Professional Development
At the urging of some in our profession, we are posting this article about moving from the high-tech industry to the healthcare industry, in the hopes that some of you will add to its content. Please share your experience. Perhaps in so doing, you will make it easier for others that face this challenge.


If you have made the move from the high-tech/electronics/computer/telecomm world of work to the healthcare/pharmeceutical/biomed world of work, we are interested in hearing your story. If you have any tips or ideas, please share them here. You might be surprised to hear how many have made this move in their careers. For others who are looking to make such a move, any advice would be appreciated. The original idea for this article comes from Richard Bomstein, and we are hoping that he will contribute some ideas from his research into this area of professional development.

The Local Newspaper

From Richard Bomstein:

If a technical writer from the high-tech world tries to find a writing or editing position in the world of healthcare, they immediately learn how important it is to have previous employment in the world of healthcare. However, there are writers who have successfully moved into the healthcare arena. If we could review the resumes of the people who have made this transition, that would help. Another invaluable strategy would be to read the business section of the News and Observer (here in Raleigh/Durham, NC) each day, which is full of information about healthcare companies that are expanding. These articles include information about projected company growth, number of square feet in new buildings, names of new products, types of positions that are opening, and names of key individuals to contact for additional information.

Many writers do not read the newspaper and they handicap their search for meaningful employment by their lack of curiosity about the world. Interviewing folks who have successfully transitioned to health care and researching the news on a daily basis are just two strategies to possibly overcoming the lack of recent health care experience

Joining AMWA

From Diane Feldman:

As in technical writing, it seems most medical writers I know got into it as a side trip to someplace else, and so there is no tried-and-true route to take. The route that I took involved spending every Saturday morning for four years working with Lottie Applewhite, but I'm not sure she's open to mentoring anyone so intensively at the moment!

One helpful step is to join the American Medical Writers Association. Besides serving as means of networking and learning more about opportunities in the field, AMWA offers workshops leading toward certification. The workshops are offered at their annual conference in October, and at regional conferences around the country at various times. The Carolinas chapter hosts such a conference every spring. You can learn more about the educational program at the AMWA web site, http://www.amwa.org. You can find the times for the local (central Carolina) chapter's networking events at the chapter site, http://www.amwacarolinas.org.

Getting certified is no guarantee, but it is a great way to learn more about the field and the skills you'll need. A background in science is very helpful. It seems as though most people around here take a turn at working for the pharma companies or for a clinical research organization (CRO) — these are by far the largest local employers. Duke University hires quite a few people, too. A surprising number of people are able to move on to freelancing after a few years in the trenches.

Other Ideas

(add your idea here)

Call for Papers at TCQ

There's an upcoming, special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly that will focus on Online Health Communication. From the call for papers:

Although we welcome submissions from scholars in any field, the goal of this special issue is to highlight the unique contributions that technical communicators can make in the healthcare sector and to make sure that our field has a voice in the scholarly conversations now emerging on this subject.

See http://www.amykoerber.com/TCQ_specialissue.htm for details.

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Contributors to this page: Rick Sapir and Bill Albing .
Page last modified on Wednesday, June 14, 2006 03:14:03 pm EDT by Rick Sapir.

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