It is no surprise that no one is born as a medical writer. There is no magic formulae or recipe to quickly create one either!
It requires a specific training program, covering multiple years, to build knowledge and to develop the skills needed to be successful. The in-depth training sessions in combination with hands-on experience are fundamental in the personal and professional development of a medical writer. The role of a mentor to aid in this process and to pass on relevant knowledge is often underestimated. A recent issue of the official journal of the European Medical Writers Association focused on mentorship and the role it plays in the development of medical writers. Based on these individual stories, it is clear that mentorship is very important and that there is no uniform way of doing it. Since the start of Emtex Life Science in 2001, we have trained several medical writers with the help of mentors who played a critical role in supporting these commencing medical writers and bridging the divide between learning and work.
We believe that the perfect medical writer needs to have a good background education and basic skills set, strengthened by a great deal of passion and ambition for the job. In our experience, this combination is a prerequisite for success. At Emtex Life Science, a ‘fixed’ mentor is assigned to each new medical writer to help them find their way in the new environment (especially important in the context of the teleworking situation under the COVID-19 restrictions). In addition, junior medical writers are supported by their more experienced colleagues – ‘ad hoc’ mentors – during the execution of their first projects. As such, the junior medical writer will be supported by many different mentors before they are promoted to advanced junior medical writer. This approach will also allow them to get insights into the different personal ways of working and to choose those that suit them best.
It is important that both mentee and mentor understand the goals and expectations of this mentorship (namely advancing the mentee’s career); which is a shared effort and commitment. The mentee should be open to getting feedback from their mentors and demonstrate willingness to learn and grow as a professional, and the mentors should be able to provide clear feedback and adequate support in all circumstances. To accomplish a successful mentorship, good communication and mutual respect are crucial. Also bearing in mind that the mentees and mentors are colleagues and that at some point in time mentees become mentors. Consequently, this mentorship journey can build strong relationships, improve collaboration/teamwork, and increase engagement.
Finally, mentoring may be a very rewarding experience for both parties and helps new medical writing professionals to become successful in their job. It is wonderful to see the people grow as a medical writer and to know that you have contributed to their development.