Opinion

The write stuff: five tips for nurses on getting published

American writer and poet Dorothy Parker may have summed up the feeling of a few nurse authors when she said: I hate writing, I love having written

There are many wonderful quotes about the process of writing – one of my favourites by Ernest Hemingway is not fit for a family-oriented blog. However, American writer and poet Dorothy Parker may have summed up the feeling of quite a few nurse authors when she said: I hate writing, I love having written.

The new age of social media has unleashed plenty of writers capable of stating their mind in 140 characters, but there’s no doubt that the thought of writing a 3,500-word, fully referenced article about a great project or piece of research you’ve undertaken, or a description of best practice can seem impossibly daunting.

However, it is vital that nurses and other healthcare professionals write for publication – it’s important for patient care, it’s important for the advancement of the profession, and it can be immensely personally satisfying and rewarding as well.

So what to do when struggling to put one word after the other? Here are five suggestions to make the process a little easier.

1. Try writing an abstract first

An abstract should be a complete summary of an article in 150-300 words. What did you do? Why? How? What does it mean? If you can sum this up in an abstract it should give you a template for writing the longer article.

2. Use plain English

This doesn’t mean dumb down the article, nor does it mean you cannot use specialist language – it means ditch the jargon. Plain English is faster to writer, easier to read and your readers will thank you.

3. What are your main points?

Remember it is often better to cover a few areas in depth rather than covering more points superficially.

4. Say it in a box

Remember that text is not always the best way to explain complex and detailed information. Tables, figures and boxes might be more effective.

5. Why should readers care?

You should be clear about the clinical significance, the implications for practice or the learning that has resulted.

There have been whole books devoted to writing for publication for healthcare professionals, and RCNi also has many resources available that can be accessed through the author pages of our journals: http://journals.rcni.com/page/authors

Stephen King said the scariest moment about writing is always just before you start. So why not get started?

About the author

Gary Bell is senior editor of RCNi’s specialist journals

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