Green Grass & Flowers for our Readers

By Christiane Fetzer

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” – many of us know that saying, which insinuates that the grass only *looks* greener but would leave you disappointed if you ever were to cross that fence and try. But in fact, we all jumped a fence, from the somewhat greenish fields of science or other places, landed in the lush valleys of medical writing, and now enjoy ourselves in the rich greens of our profession. We can even pick flowers from time to time!

But let us be honest. We do not graze on our own pasture. Every single blade of grass under our feet was grown and nurtured by other people. Some of them we know, most of them we never heard of. And this is my topic today. I want to say thank you to all those who make my profession such an interesting and inspiring one. Those who spend seven days a week in the laboratory scrutinizing a scientific concept; those who work night shifts in hospital wards; those who endure side effects but keep going.

But how can we medical writers thank these people? They will not read this web editorial. We will not meet in person. We cannot send them a thank-you note....

Wait! Of course we can! We write for them, don’t we? We write for patients, doctors and nurses, scientists and lab technicians, and even for our own colleagues – and what would be a better thank-you note than a well written, clear, concise and easy-to-read text that makes the reader’s life a little easier or less burdensome?

Dear patient....

your thoughts are going around in circles because of your diagnosis. You cannot focus, you are all panic, you would do anything that the doctors tell you to live to see your first grandchild next spring, eight months from now... The patient information sheet that I write for you will help you wrap your head around your options and see clearly. I will not have you go through twenty pages of gobbledygook. I will write in plain English and tell you right away what is important for you. It is your life. You are at the wheel. The information I write will empower you to make informed decisions. Promise.

Dear study nurse....

you are working overtime again to get that eCRF completed. It is late, you have had a long day, and you still need to prepare the examination room for Visit 3, that big visit with so many assessments... The study protocol that I write for you will be crystal clear and serve as your checklist so you can set everything up efficiently. I will add time windows for each assessment and think through each visit to make sure that the sequence and timing of all procedures is feasible so you will not be stressed out. Promise.

Dear sub-investigator....

you were assigned to the study although you are new to the clinic, have no study experience and are already snowed under with routine work. You want to give your best, but you have so little time to familiarize yourself with the study and the test drug.... The study protocol that I write for you will be well-structured and non-repetitive. I will include visuals to help you grasp the study concept easily. I will pay great attention to accuracy and consistency, so you can effectively learn all that is required and be confident about your role and responsibilities. Promise.

Dear scientist....

you are sitting at your computer again, adding published study results to your research group’s database. You investigate rare side effects and drug-drug interactions in routine care, such an important field but so poorly funded. You really rely on the quality of the published data... The publication that I write for you will be scientifically sound and coherent with all methods well described. Every statement will be substantiated, and you will find all the details to judge the validity of the data. Nothing will be hidden or obscured. Promise.

Dear fellow medical writer….

the grass may not be greener on the other side of the fence. In fact, the opposite may be true. The lush green beneath our own feet is being cared for by our readers. Those who analyze our publications. Those who fall asleep during on-call duty with a Xeroxed copy of our study protocol in hand. Those who gaze at the “Can anything bad happen” section in the patient information sheet with tears in their eyes. I deeply respect these people and feel connected with each one of them through my work.

Let us pick flowers and give them to the people who nurture our grass. They deserve it.