How to Organize Medical Writing Projects

    How to Organize Medical Writing Projects


    Welcome to the busy life of a medical communicator. Medical writers and editors are busy professionals who juggle multiple projects, teams, and tasks. 

    Freelance medical writers often work with several clients, balancing various needs and deadlines. 

    What are some tips for staying organized while working on multiple projects simultaneously?

    Clarify Your Role

    Medical communicators do much more than write. They are shepherds who move projects through reviews by subject matter experts, staff members, and copy editors. They are mediators who help team members agree on issues of content and rectify differences of opinion and style. They are translators who make scientific documents understandable to various audiences. They are coaches and cheerleaders who guide players to meet timelines and quality standards.

    Of course, every project is different, and organizing projects depends on the scope and the role you are being asked to perform. If you are the point of contact on a project, your role is that of project manager.

    Project Management

    In the AMWA on‑demand video, Effective Project Management: Paving the Path to Successful Regulatory Documents, Lynne Munno, MA, MS, offers tips for before, during, and after projects.

    Before You Begin

    • Know how you will organize your project. What is your platform and system for drafting, editing, and incorporating feedback on drafts?
    • Get a team roster. Who is responsible for which tasks? Who communicates key pieces of information? How will the team stay in touch?
    • Forecast project timelines. What are the steps to completing the project? Which pieces are due when? 
    • Gather resources and personnel. What are the sources of information the project team needs? Are you hiring contractor writers?

    Project Kickoff

    Project initiation or kickoff meetings are used to get the team members in the same room (or virtual space) to agree on the big picture and understand their role in moving the project forward. This is the space and time to introduce team members to one another, go over the timelines, define expectations, and drill down on the topic. 

    The project kickoff is also an opportunity to define the communication process and motivate everyone to create a high-quality product.

    During the Project

    While individual team members are working on separate pieces, the project manager can help things run smoothly by sending meeting slides, updates, and any updated information that can help the project stay on track. Project management also involves routing documents and managing edits. 

    Version control is key when multiple people are working on a document. Document-locking mechanisms such as access controls and editing restrictions can help keep control of versions.

    Learning from Project Managers

    Project management strategies and tools are useful for medical writers, no matter where they are in the content development process—and whether they are freelancers or employees.

    In this article published by Sage House Editorial, author Ellen Polk suggests that writers need to choose a project management methodology before investing in project management tools. The four methods identified in the article are

    1. Waterfall—a linear, step-by-step process that moves through planning, writing, editing, and publishing.
    2. Agile—a flexible methodology that works with multiple collaborators and breaks writing projects into smaller tasks, gathering feedback, and making adjustments during the creation process. ClickUp is an example of Agile project management software.
    3. Scrum—a version of Agile that is hyper-collaborative and involves frequent communication.
    4. Kanban—a visual methodology that uses a visual system with cards and columns to track progress and organize workflow. Trello is an example of a Kanban tool.

    Of course, medical communicators can also create a hybrid methodology as long as there is an organizational system in place.

    Choosing and Working with Project Management Tools 

    Many employers may already have a subscription to a favorite project management software, which makes choosing which one to work with much easier. Freelancers may need to decide which one to use.

    A Forbes Advisor article, “Best Project Management Software of 2024,” awarded high ratings to, Hubspot, Smartsheet, and ClickUp. The article explores the software’s utility for various types of projects. However, the ratings were not designed with medical communicators in mind.

    Getting Organized

    Whether you are employed as a freelance medical communicator or running a freelance business, every project goes more smoothly when there’s a plan. 

    The plan should involve breaking down the overall project into manageable tasks using the project management tools at your disposal. Decide who is responsible for which piece, and determine how each collaborator will deliver their content or feedback.

    Set realistic deadlines for yourself and for everyone else involved, because readjusting deadlines has a cascading effect and can compromise deadlines for deliverables. 

    It also helps to check in frequently with collaborators and contractors to make sure everyone has what they need to hit target dates. Writers aren’t robots, so projects require flexibility and adaptation to changing circumstances. 

    The good news is that many tools and resources are available to help medical communicators create and deliver high-quality projects to employers and clients. 

    AMWA acknowledges the contributions of Kavita R. Garg, MPharm, MBA for peer review in the development of this AMWA resource.

    The following checklist is an AMWA Members-Only Resource.

    If you're a member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and don't see the checklist content below, click to submit your AMWA member profile email to download and view it. 


    July 8, 2024 at 9:00 AM

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