Strong writing skills play a vital role throughout an entire nursing career, from documenting patient outcomes and communicating with other healthcare professionals to cataloging data for accreditation and detailing information to meet legal and regulatory standards.
Registered nurses (RNs) who develop clear, succinct and authoritative writing styles can express important information. Writing in the nursing profession can also be used to start a nursing blog, apply for a promotion, write academic papers and draft proposed changes for a healthcare organization.
June Kaminski, editor in chief of the Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, said all nurses should develop their writing skills for two audiences: other healthcare professionals and the public.
When writing for other healthcare professionals, RNs should use strong and clear scientific language. When writing for the public, the style is more relaxed, ensuring people of all literacy levels can understand.
“Nurses have a wide-angle perspective on what keeps people healthy, how people can be happy and what strong, resilient individuals, families and communities look like,” Kaminski said. “Yet so few present this knowledge and guidance through writing. Often, nurses feel they have nothing to add, nothing worthy of sharing with others.”
Learning to write is a skill that takes time and practice and is essential to RNs who are planning to boost their career options. Some of the leading nursing schools also offer RN to BSN curriculums that focus on helping students improve their writing skills.
Writing in the Nursing Profession
Writing as a nurse begins the first day of an educational program and continues throughout a career. These are some RN milestones that require strong writing skills:
The beginning stage of any nursing career begins with nursing school, which may include completing applications and writing personal statements. The statements are intended to impress admissions staff while highlighting professional successes.
After admission to nursing school, students will be expected to write position papers, health histories, care plans, research papers, exams, nursing notes, lab reports and case studies. This type of writing often includes overarching themes, well-researched information and a logical structure.
At most nursing schools, the RN-to-BSN curriculum requires students to use the four types of writing ― expository, descriptive, persuasive and narrative. Many RN-to-BSN online programs also rely heavily on writing skills because of participation in online chats or message boards.
Nurses who want to present themselves professionally to prospective employers should be able to write their resumes accurately, including personal statements. On the job, strong writing skills are vital to communication skills. Here are some examples of daily writing requirements for RNs:
- Documenting accurate information from the patient and patient’s family regarding medical conditions, past treatments and complications
- Completing admissions assessments
- Writing physician’s orders regarding patient care
- Documenting progress notes
- Detailing information to fellow nurses for patient handoffs
- Recording end-of-shift patient reports
- Completing plans of care
- Communicating with other healthcare professionals such as physical therapists or respiratory therapists
In addition, RNs must use their professional writing skills to complete tasks that are important to healthcare facilities and other healthcare personnel. Writing skills are used in these instances:
- Satisfying regulatory requirements
- Recording information for credentialing
- Detailing incidents for legal fact-finding and possible liability defense
- Chronicling research data to help evaluate and analyze patient outcomes
- Communicating with non-healthcare professionals to secure grants or influence policy
- Educating the public about healthcare issues
RNs who have experience as writers are often encouraged to seek freelance writing opportunities in consumer health magazines, blogs, newsletters and newspapers.
Sarah Nantz, author of “How to get your article published,” said learning to write is a lot like learning nursing skills. It takes structure, practice and dedication, she said. She said steps for writing are also akin to the nursing process, the scientific method that RNs use to ensure patient care. Nantz’s steps to writing are:
- Contemplation (akin to the assessment step in the nursing process)
Determine the topic, target audience and the type of article to write.
- Gap analysis (nursing diagnosis step)
Examine other articles to determine what kind of coverage your idea has gotten in the past or if there is a gap in current literature. Review author guidelines for journals and periodicals to cover the chosen topic.
- Query submission (planning step)
Submit written inquiries (called query or pitch letters) to determine publications’ interest in the subject.
- Write the article (implementation step)
Prepare a well-written outline detailing the points to be covered in the article. Complete and transcribe the appropriate interviews and take time each day to write. When the piece is completed and proofread, submit the article to the editors.
- Acceptance (evaluation step)
If the article is approved for publication, complete the necessary edits. If it was rejected, find out the reasons behind the decision and get tips for making corrections.
Tips for Success as a Nurse Writer
Nantz said RNs often suffer from a fear of rejection, inexperience, writer’s block, a lack of proper planning and time constraints that hinder writing. To combat these barriers, Nantz suggests:
- Setting aside time for writing to stay on track
- Avoiding plagiarism
- Consulting with peers for more information or starting a writing support group
- Acknowledging mentors and others who helped in the writing process
For RNs, writing in the nursing profession is a fact of the occupation. Learning to write in a clear and concise manner helps nurses in all aspects of their career, from earning an RN-BSN to earning advanced degrees to working as a professional nurse.
When reviewing RN-to-BSN curriculums, students who are considering RN-BSN online programs should evaluate how much focus is placed on writing skills. At Duquesne University, students accepted in the RN-BSN online program complete a writing module that is intended to encourage better writing and grammar skills.
About Duquesne University’s Online RN-BSN Program
Duquesne University’s online RN-BSN program allows RNs to learn advanced skills to meet the new standards of practice. RNs can earn their degree through a 100 percent online platform that provides the flexibility that professionals and working parents need.
The university also provides one-on-one faculty mentorship and the opportunity for student assignment collaboration. The faculty members are RNs who have years of experience in clinical and classroom work. For more information, contact Duquesne University now.
ANA’s Principles for Nursing Documentation: American Nurses Association
Why all Nurses Can/Should be Authors: Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics
The importance of academic literacy for undergraduate nursing students and its relationship to future professional clinical practice: A systematic review: Nurse Education Today
Why Are Communication Skills So Essential for Nurses? Minority Nurse
How to get your article published: American Nurse Today