Life After Medicine

Slowing Down and Pivoting to a Career in Medical Writing with Dr. Mandy Armitage

August 17, 2023 Chelsea Turgeon Season 1 Episode 115
Life After Medicine
Slowing Down and Pivoting to a Career in Medical Writing with Dr. Mandy Armitage
Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion that you were heading down the wrong path? So often, in the medical field, we suppress the signs that we are unhappy and just keep powering through. In this episode, we talk to Dr. Mandy Armitage, who pivoted from PMNR to medical writing.

Dr. Armitage shares the story of how she found the strength to follow her heart's desires and take a different path in life.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How to recognize and trust that sneaking suspicion that you are in the wrong career
  • The importance of slowing down and doing the inner work when making a career transition.
  • How to get started with a career in medical writing.

Get ready to learn from Dr. Armitage as she shares her advice and experiences on making a career change.

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Chelsea Turgeon:

Hello, my loves. Welcome back to another episode of the Life After Medicine podcast. I am so happy that you guys pressed play today. I have here with me a very special guest, Dr. Mandy Armitage. She is a sports and musculoskeletal medicine physician by training, but transitioned out of clinical practice in 2012 where she has spent the last. Decade in a variety of different roles, including freelance, medical writer, physician consultant, and medical director at a few different health tech companies, including Doximity and GoodRx. She enjoys creating content for consumer audiences, and it's also open to trying new experiences. So thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Thank you so much for having me. It was really great to be here.

Chelsea Turgeon:

And so I know you've had a lot going on since you've made this transition and left the typical clinical world, but can you give us a little bit, an overview of your story and how you got to where you are

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

today? Sure. Happy to. I went all the way through all the training, all the way through. I would say probably during med school and especially during residency, I started to have this sneaking. Suspicion that maybe medicine wasn't for me, but nevertheless I trudged through kept thinking that every step along the way, oh, it'll be better in residency, it'll be better in fellowship, it'll be better in practice. But when I ended up getting into practice after fellowship, my first, real job. The realization hit me pretty hard, pretty early, that no, this is not going to be a sustainable path for me. I really love musculoskeletal medicine. I think Fellowship was probably my favorite year of training for me. But, I can get into all the why's and the how's and the, all the feelings I had. But really at the end of the day, I just I. I didn't wanna keep going the way I was going. So I ended up working with, while I was in practice, I worked with a career coach for a few months and she helped me gather my thoughts, gather my feelings, and realize that all along where my passion was in writing. So I made the decision to Notify the hospital system that I was working for, that I was going to resign. And I was, as I was winding down my clinic days, I started taking an online writing course and from there just went head first into starting my own freelance writing business. And it was scary and it was certainly unknown, but it ended up working out. And, here we are 10 plus years

Chelsea Turgeon:

later. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing your story. And I know it's not easy to condense like years of back and forth and feelings and emotions into just like a little overview, but I think you actually did a really great job. One, one thread that I notice in so many people's stories that I talked to on the podcast and then, people who are in my community and clients is when you talked about the sneaking suspicion, That's something wasn't quite right here. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that was like for you? Like how did that come up? Was it like, just something like in the middle of the night it would wake you up and you would, you'd have this sense of knowing or what was that sneaking suspicion like for you?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

That's interesting. And there were I vividly remember during second year of med school thinking to myself, I'm in the classroom'cause. The school I went to they separated us up into separate campuses around the state.'cause there was only one med school in the state, and I was in one of the smaller groups. And I'm with the same 14 people all day, every day. And I remember sitting in this classroom looking around after everyone had just finished lunch, I think. And I, I remember thinking to myself, I don't know. How they're still going. I feel like I want to just give up on this. I'm just not that not that excited about it. And so I remember that, that thought in my head in second year of med school and at the time thinking I. It's too late now. I've already accumulated too much debt. I just have to keep going. And looking back on it now, I'm like, that is ridiculous. It's two years of debt. But anyway, fast forward and I I remember in residency I wasn't having a good time. I, I would I. I remember reaching out to my old I was in a different state at that time, so I remember reaching out to my old primary care physician. He was an internist, but he had gone to work for an insurance company, and so I reached out to him just to see what that was like, because remember, Back in the day. Back in the day, I sound like an old person. They, there weren't very many resources. So I'm sitting here thinking, I don't know what I'm gonna do with a biology degree. I'm a bachelor's in biology. I don't know what I'm gonna do with a medical degree, but no clinical training if I were to leave now. So I. I say that to because this is, these are just like periods in time when I'd say, I can't do this anymore. And then I'd go I don't have another option, so I'm just gonna, I'm gonna suck it up and I'm just gonna keep going. But every once in a while I'd be like, oh, I don't think I want to. What are my other options? And so I would pause and, it just like a cycle that just kept repeating itself. Does that make sense?

Chelsea Turgeon:

It makes so much sense. I've literally created a graphic that describes exactly what you're going through, and I call it like this, like a career unhappiness, because that's exactly when unhappiness is just a generic catchall term for all the ways that it just doesn't feel like the right fit for you. Where like you have this sense of knowing. Whatever that looks like, whether it's just like thoughts that keep coming up or just a sense of like dread or unease about going in or just low energy at work, like whatever those kind of symptoms look like, you experience those and then you do a little bit of something to try to look around about making a shift or a change, and then when. Options don't feel immediately apparent or it feels oh, that's gonna be really scary, or That's gonna be hard. There's some sort of it's like a reality SmackDown is what I call it. That sort of hits you and then you're like, ah, nevermind. It's not so bad after all. And then you kinda go back into your little hole and then, yeah, carry on. I. Yeah,

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So we're, it's not just me we're, but, and that's the thing is that you do you're looking around and watching the people around you that are so driven and so smart and, a lot of people around us are so driven to do what they do, which is wonderful. It's a calling for so many people and then it makes you feel like there must be something wrong with me. Everyone around me is doing this and enjoying it and loving it and this is what they're meant to do. So I feel alone in these thoughts, and that's probably the worst part about it. Yes.

Chelsea Turgeon:

And that's why I'm so happy to have people like you come on here and speak about it so that people can say they can see I'm actually not alone. And I wonder if, looking at you from the outside, if people could tell that you were unhappy or if it looked like, oh, she's got it all together and she's doing it and she's driven and enjoying it. Do you know what it looked like from, obviously you weren't on the outside, but were there any like external indications that you were unhappy?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

The first one that I can remember was late in medical school excuse me. And at this point I had joined the rest of the larger class. So for years three and four, everybody was together after they had separated us out. And so I remember being out with some of my classmates and friends and everyone was talking about, at this point we were in clinical rotations. Everyone was talking about like the cool case they saw that day or I don't even know, step one scores or something. I don't even know what it was, but it was all about medicine. And I looked around, I was like, you guys, can we please talk about something else, right? There's life outside of medicine. And they all just kinda looked at me like I guess we can. And that when it really hit me like, geez, this is, something's not right here. So I vividly

Chelsea Turgeon:

remember that moment. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing.'cause I think moments like that are really impactful too. And you know what happens in medicine, I think for most of us is our world gets so small because it is a very consuming profession and being in medical school itself is, can be really consuming. And then I just remember, I. Hanging out with people outside of medicine and having this feeling of they don't even get it. Like they don't understand basically like how much hell my life is right now and like how right miserable it can be and how demanding training is. And so then I would start to distance and isolate myself from anyone outside of the medical world because it was hard to just pretend like I cared about the things they complained about because I was like, That's nothing like that. You worked three eight hour shifts in a row. I work 80 hour shifts a week, and so it was just like starting to get really hard to even empathize with other people, and my world just started to feel really

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

small. Yes, I feel that 100% I did. I felt the exact same way. It was it got to the point where it's yes you just don't even wanna hang out with anybody because you don't want, you don't wanna talk about it, you don't wanna try to compare notes. It's just not fun.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah, so then it's hard'cause then it's like your social circle is people in medicine, but that's all you talk about. But then when you try to go outside of it. Yeah. And so then it can feel really isolating and that's, I think that's one of the biggest, much like ways that it starts to eat at people is just the isolation that you can feel when you're in that place where you're like, I'm not loving this. Everyone else around me seems to be loving it. Yes, exactly. And so how did you break out of that cycle? So you said for several years now, it sounds like you were in this cycle of, tiptoeing around the idea of making some sort of change. What was it that allowed you to really break free?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Honestly, I think I think my, my now husband would have these conversations with me because we were. He would see how he would see how unhappy I was and he would hear me say, but what else am I gonna do? What am I gonna do about it? And we had, we had a lot of discussions about what would it look like if I, if joined a different practice or if I if I cut out my procedure days,'cause those would give me a lot of anxiety, nothing ever went wrong, but I just, I always had a lot of a lot of doubts about it and a lot of anxiety about, what if something did go wrong and that kind of thing. So we would have these conversations about how unhappy I was, how I felt. Powerless, to make a change. And he slowly over time, just kept encouraging me to, just look into it like, you're smart, you're creative, you can figure something out. Basically just his support saying, I support you if you wanna leave medicine. I support you in whatever you wanna do because I don't wanna see you this unhappy forever. It's just not sustainable. And so I think just having someone in my corner. Saying I support you rather than someone looking at me like, I have two heads going, are you nuts? You wanna leave medicine after all this time, after all this effort, after all this money that you dumped into it? Yeah, I, I would, I'll credit my husband for that one.

Chelsea Turgeon:

I love that. And I think that's really powerful too, to have someone who just sees you over time, day in and day out, really hold up that mirror to you and be like, Hey, like you're not doing well. You're not unhappy.'cause it can almost be hard to notice from the inside. It's like you, you feel that you're unhappy, but then you can also just get so consumed in it that it's hard to just have that greater perspective of this is not okay.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Yeah. Exactly. And I think probably no one else would be like you are not fun to live with right now.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah. But we need that we need that sort of loving sense of, I'll support you no matter what, and I'm gonna be here for you. And things aren't going well and you deserve more than this. And that's something I'm always trying to just put out there on the interwebs too, of Hey guys, we don't have to settle for crumbs. Yep. Yeah, I think it's important for people to hear over and over again. And so when you started on that journey of starting to explore other options or, just really starting to take more practical steps towards, figuring out what else is out there, what did that look like for you? So you said you worked with a career coach, so how did you know you wanted to work with somebody and then how did that start to shift and direct you? I.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

I think I, I found my coach when I was, if I remember correctly, it was probably one of those nights where I'm, sitting at my laptop. I. Going down a Google Rabbit hole of options, basically. And like I said, this was, like 20 11, 20 12. So there weren't all the resources that we have now. And I'm pretty sure I just found her website, my coach's website. One night going down a Google Rabbit hole. And so I just, at that point I was like it can't hurt. So I reached out to her and then when we started working together, it was a lot of, I. Well, first it's a lot of getting to know you, right? Because you can't really expect someone to help you if they don't know what your values are and you know what you like about medicine, what you don't like about medicine and what what you want out of a career. So we did a lot of that. There was a lot of, self-reflection. A lot of. Probably some of the, a lot of the touchy feely stuff that clinicians are not typically used to diving into. We worked, we, we did some Enneagram work which is a lot of fun. Maybe I. I'm sure you, you have a lot of resources for people to, to look into that kind of stuff. But I found it really interesting just taking a step back, looking at me, myself as a person, why I am driven by what I'm driven by. And just taking it from there. So it was a really interesting period. That's what I'll say about that. Yeah,

Chelsea Turgeon:

I love that. And that's a huge part of the work too, right? It's if you want a career that you enjoy and not just let me get out of here. I need to escape and just jump into the next thing. If you really want to make this change because you wanna be doing something, you enjoy doing all of that deeper. I call it like the inner work Is important because getting to know yourself and figuring out more deeply why you're unhappy and then using that knowledge to, to make a shift and a change, that's really, that's how you do it. It's like having a career base more on your whole self and who you are instead of just a cookie cutter option. What do you remember, anything that, like surprised you, that you learned about yourself during that time?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

I think it was, Pretty quickly apparent that I needed some kind of therapy. Yeah. And I say that jokingly now because, I've I'm good with everything. But I would say that I realized quickly that there were a lot of, and I don't wanna make this sound too dramatic, so that's why I'm trying to choose my words carefully, but there were a lot of questions that I needed to ask that I had never really asked myself, right? Just taking the time to slow down and ask the why's why did I go into medicine? Why did I feel like I didn't have a choice? Why have I not been listening to my gut for so long? So I think that was pretty eye-opening and. I'm glad that she, I'm using air quotes made me do that because the theory is, like you said, you don't wanna be running away from medicine into something else that's just gonna save the day. When I talk to physicians, I hear from so many people that are, They're like, I want, I need to find something else like yesterday. Just find, I need another job. Just find it for me. I'm just gonna do it. And then figure out the rest later. But when you stop and slow down and go wait. What are we looking for? Not what are we running from, but what are we looking for? So I think that was key. That was really eye-opening. Yeah. That's

Chelsea Turgeon:

such a powerful distinction. And honestly, I feel like that's why people avoid doing that work and avoid even. The self-honesty that comes with, knowing, like really admitting out loud that something needs to shift or something needs to change. Because it's almost if I start looking at that, if I start opening up that Pandora's box, like what else is gonna come up? And it's almost like there's such an avoidance around doing that because on some level, you know that there's so much in there that's gonna come out when you start slowing down and taking a look at it.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

But it's gotta pay off in the long run. Yeah,

Chelsea Turgeon:

it is, and that's what I tell people like, yes, it's, you're not facing it and dealing with it head on right now, but you're still dealing with it. Like whatever's in there, whatever you're running from, if you will. It's not to sound like ominous or threatening, but it's like it's running your life in some way. Anyways, you're just probably not aware of it. And so it's like you're dealing with it no matter what. So do you wanna deal with it head on or do you want to just subtly be running the show without you really understanding what's going on? Yes. And after, facing these emotions and really taking time to do this work, how did you stumble upon medical writing? Was that just an obvious choice for you? Did it just you said you, you uncovered that writing was your passion, but it did that just. Surface pretty quickly and easily, as this is the obvious next step for me. it

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

did. In a sense she helped me uncover it because when we were talking about my fellowship, I think I'm mentioned earlier, fellowship was really a great year for me. I loved it, but I also noticed that I would dread certain aspects of it, and I loved certain aspects of it. I didn't really care for a couple of the, like clinics that I had to rotate through, you know what I mean? So I was able to identify certain aspects of it that I didn't like, but what I really loved and what kind of came out during this process, what I really loved was that my My fellowship director had me help write a book chapter. And that took up a lot of time, but he was nice enough to give me a dedicated half day a week to research and write and do all that stuff. And that was my favorite part of the week. And, it wasn't, it didn't sink in initially. But then I was like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. That's what I enjoyed the most, researching and writing. I don't know why it took me so long to put two and two together, but thankfully, she helped me put that together and and it wasn't just that's just one, one big example. But like in residency I did a newsletter and when I was in practice, I had started a blog. I'd be sitting there watching football on Sundays and blogging about concussions and a c l ruptures and all these other things. So it was there all along. I just, like I said, I was just too dense to put two and two together,

Chelsea Turgeon:

I love that. And it's so funny how, yes, for a lot of us, there are threads that are there all along, but we just for some reason are not able to really shine that light on it. And it just shows like how selective our perception can be. When it's maybe we're not giving ourselves the opportunity to explore it, or maybe we just don't have a sense of this is important information to, to store and to acknowledge and so for whatever reason, Our perception we can have this really tunnel vision around any of these things. And so anytime my clients are like, I don't know what I like, I don't know what I want, I'm like, you do know. You do know. Let's just go with it and let's go back to it because we just, yeah. Our perception gets warped as we go through training of what's actually important to pay attention to, but there's usually threads all along. Yeah. And so once you made that decision to start pursuing medical writing, now I kinda wanna get into some of the practical and the, technical of like how you turn that into something that was your livelihood. But before we even do that, for anyone who is not totally sure what medical writing is, are you able to just give us sort of a definition or just explain what is medical writing? What does that encompass?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Yes, that is, I get that question a lot. And the short answer is it can be a lot of things. The long answer is that there are so many different aspects of medical writing that it's, it can look. Very different to different people. So for example recently I've been spending a lot of time in the consumer space, meaning writing informational articles for a patient audience, explaining health topics, answering health question, health related questions. And some people would argue that's not technically medical writing, we'll use this loosely because as clinicians, when we think about writing, it can cover a lot of topics and spaces. So I'll include it for today's purposes. There's also C M E writing, when you think about all of the activities that you do to keep up your continuing education credits Any aspect of that, whether it's securing the funding for the C M E projects the actual content of the webinars or the conferences or, the slides that you view. In another aspect is regulatory stuff. People write the clinical study reports or any of the, f d a submission stuff for. C r o companies, pharmaceutical companies, device companies. It can range from pretty creative to not so creative. Pretty scientific to not so scientific. There's a whole, there's just this whole spectrum of it, if that makes sense. I, I wrote a book on it during the pandemic because, I just I got the same questions over and over from physicians that were interested. So there's more detail in the book, but that's my broad overview. Hopefully that

Chelsea Turgeon:

helps. Yeah, it absolutely does. And then, yeah, we'll go ahead and link the the book in the show notes because I think if people are interested in really getting into the nuts and bolts of it, that'll be a better resource to really, have, just see all the different array of options. And I love that you've talked about it as like a spectrum from like scientific to creative and there's different types of opportunities there. And so then my understanding of it is essentially you're using your medical knowledge in some way to produce written

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

content. Absolutely. That's a better summary. Thank you.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah, no, that's just as you're describing it it's that's what I'm hearing and just so that people can have a little understanding in that sense. And so when it comes to doing that, how did you like get into that? Did you have to. Learn any additional skills? Did you have to get like a certification or a training program or anything like that? Like how did you prepare yourself, I guess you did say initially that you were doing an online writing course, so can you tell us more about how you prepared yourself to Yes. Enter the world of medical writing?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Yes. And that's a good question. Whether or not you need training or certification or whatever, my answer is usually that no, you don't need a certification. There are certifications available if you so choose. But what you really need to move forward and, get work in this space is just a solid portfolio of writing. I did take a course, it was an online course that provided realtime feedback. So essentially there would be a new topic each week. We would learn about it. We would work on our pieces, turn'em in, and we'd get'em back with feedback so we'd know what we did right and what we did wrong. Number one, it was helpful just from the learning aspect and, being able to improve my writing. Number two, it was great because I could then use those. Assignments to store, to start building my portfolio. So for example, I, at the end of the course, I started a website where I would put some samples of my writing on the website because when people are looking for a writer to hire, they wanna see samples of their work. Published or not. It, that's. That's a different topic for a different day, but you really want to be able to demonstrate that you are a good writer. So that course really helped, and that's why there's so many reasons why I encourage people to work on their writing, whether it's just going to your local community college and enrolling in a creative writing course, or if you really wanna take a, pay some money and take a certified course on, for example, c m E writing. Or if you wanna get into the regulatory stuff, there are courses you can take to improve your skills there, but, I really think it's worthwhile to take a course because it will not only give you practice, right? We all need to, whatever it is. If you're learning an instrument, you need practice, right? Everything that you want to improve at, you need to practice. It allows you to do that, but it also can show you your blind spots, so to speak. If you're, if you get into a course that can give you feedback in some way, shape or form on what you're writing, then it can, I think that just improves you, improves your writing leaps and bounds because if you continue to write with the same blind spots and you're making the same mistakes over and nobody's pointing them out, then you know you're never really gonna get better. And that's my 2 cents.

Chelsea Turgeon:

I love that and I think that's important to really get into the why behind the course.'cause I think sometimes with the people I work with, they can, we can be very like certification happy and just feel like we're needing all these additional training or skills or certifications. Just to give ourselves a boost of confidence or a sense that we're allowed to pursue this next thing. And I think it's important to be like that's not totally it. Like you're allowed to start pursuing it, if you want to. But then it sounds like the benefits of doing a course is one, just really hon honing your craft, like really mastering the skill and then also that you're able to develop a portfolio. As a part of the class. So there is like a very like productive and practical output or outcome from the course as well.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Yes, exactly. Exactly. It. You, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, we're certification happy. I spoke with someone recently who I think had just finished his third writing course and he was still Aimless a bit. And he was like what do I do next? And I said what do you wanna do? And he's where should I apply? I said, where do you want to apply? I can't tell you what to do with this. So I think you should, as you're. Training yourself as you said, you're honing your skills. Use it as guidance, right? Oh, I'm, maybe I'm better in this area than that area. Or, I enjoy this type of writing better, better than that type of writing. So use it to help guide you where you wanna go, what kind of content you wanna get into what kind of audience do you wanna write for. So just taking the course and checking the box, isn't it? Yes, it's one step, but it's so much more than that. It should be help. It should help guide you for your next steps, I think.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah, I think that's powerful information too, is just to be using the entirety of the experience to further inform your direction going forward. And it's so funny that you say that because we're just so not used to. Answering the question, what do I want in any area when it comes to career, right? We're going based on what should I do, what's expected of me, what will help me get in? What do they want from me? But we like, we're never coming back to what do I want? Yeah.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

And medicine is like all the past has laid out in front of you. You know what you have to do to get into good residency, you know what you have to do to get the fellowship, and then after the fellowship, like it's just step after step. It's just laid out there, and there's no deviation from that path. So when clinicians start to step off that path, it's, it feels a little daunting oh crap. What's next?

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah. And I know I didn't ask you like the specifics around like what writing course did you take or some of the things like that. But is that information all in your book so that people who are really looking for super specifics would be able to find

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

guidance there? Yes. Yes it is. And I. A bit of a disclaimer. It was published in late 2020 so there may be newer information out there, there may be more courses by now. So just, yeah, keep that in mind. It's not a, it's not an all-inclusive list. But yeah, I tried to include as many specifics as I could about courses and training and that kind of thing.

Chelsea Turgeon:

I think that's helpful, even just having a starting point, because obviously if it's a course that worked for you, it might not be the newest and shiniest one, at some point. Exactly. Just do it. Do what needs to be done. And so then once you have developed those skills, you've maybe taken a course and you're building your portfolio, how do you start getting paid to, to be doing this? Ah,

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

the million dollar question. That's. It can look different for different people. So I can speak to my experience. I started doing subcontract work for another freelance writer and for the person who taught the online course that I did. So what that means is I think this other freelance writer, I think I found her on LinkedIn way back when LinkedIn was, more helpful. It, I reached out to her and I said, Hey, I'm, because she was a physician also, I said, Hey, I'm I'm a physician. I'm getting into medical writing. I just took this course. Here's what my interests are. I'd love to help you if you've got any. overflow work. So sometimes freelance writers will, they'll get requests for more work than they can actually take on. So they can basically assign it out to a subcontractor and the subcontractor who's usually, in the learning phases, we'll get paid part of. And I'll get, the percentage is, I'm not gonna get into that right now, but they'll get paid part of whatever the writer. Has agreed to in their contract. So an example is she was contracted to write a couple of online chapters on, I wanna say diabetes. And she didn't have the time to take on all of it, so she assigned out some of it to me. I would turn it into her, she would make her changes before sending it on to the client. So that's what I mean by subcontract work and it's. Again, it's not it's not a lot of money, but it was a really good practice and I was able to pick her brain on, on a few things and ask about, her relationship with the client and that kind of stuff. So it was a really good learning experience to do that. Subcontract work for other people. And that's a common way to get paid. But also once you've got a portfolio and you've got a few samples, you can, there's no reason that you need to do subcontract work if you feel confident going ahead and applying for jobs. Another good example is in the C M E world needs assessments are pretty common. Just a real quick aside of needs assessment is basically researched summary of why a company should fund a particular C M E program in its in a, on a topic. And the needs assessments are a really good way for beginners to get into C M E work. And there are a lot of C M E companies out there that hire freelance writers to do their. Their needs assessments. So my point is, at the end of the day, if you have even just a few writing samples and you feel confident going straight to a client and applying for something that you saw online, or even just sending out cold emails saying, Hey, keep me in mind if you need somebody. To write needs assessments on this particular topic or in this particular therapeutic area, please contact me. There, you don't have to start with subcontract work. If you feel comfortable just diving right in. Yeah,

Chelsea Turgeon:

I love that. And I know that now we're getting into some of the more nuts and bolts and so then there's just a lot more probably than we can cover in a conversation. And so that's where your book comes into play for people who are really wanting to get into the nitty gritty and the how to. Do you have just one, one more practical tip. Do you have a list or an idea or like how to start thinking of what companies to start networking with on LinkedIn or like what companies to, like what companies hire. Freelance writers, is it like health tech? Is it like bigger, hospital organizations or what, yeah. What sort of genres of companies are we looking at here?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Really all of the above. All I know, and I know that sounds so generic, but it's true. I think the first, I always say the first step is to. To decide what it is you want to do. Some people stumble into it, right? Some people will start writing for their hospital's newsletter or a medical association's website or, something like that. And that's totally fine. If that's what you wanna do, that's great. But if you're you're starting from scratch and you're not really sure what to do, I would say try to identify what it is you wanna write. Do you wanna write for patients and consumers, or do you wanna keep it more on the scientific end of things? If you've got a few publications under your belt, do you want to work for a, for pharma or a medical communications agency and do more publications work? I would say identify that first before you start looking, because otherwise it's just, it's, you're just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah, I love that. I love that you're always bringing it back to, okay, but what do you want? Because yeah, it's like we could give someone a roadmap, we could give someone like all the steps, but really at the end of the day, it comes back to how do you wanna be spending your time? What do you wanna be doing? And usually, once you're really leading from that place, all the specifics. Can tend to start to sort themselves out. And the path becomes clear when you're pursuing from that place of oh, this is interesting to me. This is exciting. Oh, I just wanna reach out to this person. And you get all those like impulses and nudges and you can just follow those breadcrumbs all the way to your

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

next gig. Yes, for sure. And I should also say too, that doesn't mean you have to stay on that path, for me I did a lot of C M E work and I really enjoyed it, but I ended up going back to the consumer stuff just because I don't know I, I just I liked it more. There's no rhyme or reason, but all that to say you'll find what you like. And if you're, if your path leads one way and you're like, ah, maybe let's try something else. There's nothing stopping you from doing that.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah, I love that having that flexibility and that kind of knowledge that it's okay to shift and change as you go, which you've demonstrated a lot as you've moved through the nonclinical world, which is great. Like just being able to listen to when you wanna pivot and shift is wonderful. And when it comes to compensation, do you mind sharing a little bit about what people can expect for compensation? For medical

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

writing. Writing? Sure. I will say the one resource I always point people to because I think it's it's not the end all be all, but it's a good place to start. The American Medical Writers Association conducts a survey every, I don't know, I think four to five years. And they send it out to their members who are both in the freelance space, but also in employed positions. To ask them anonymously about their level of training, about their backgrounds to, keep in mind they're not all clinicians. They're people from all, all different backgrounds. But they reach out and they get a good, they try to get a good feel for. How much people are making, whether that's on an hourly basis or a project basis for freelance writers, but also salary and benefits for people in employed positions. So that's, I think, a good place to start. And that's a good, that's a good place to see that. There is a lot, there's a wide range. Of compensation when it comes to different areas of writing. So for example regulatory writing tends to be more highly compensated than, patient education stuff. If you're working for a device or tech or pharma company, you're probably gonna make a little bit more than if you're working for a nonprofit or a, a hospital system. That's a good place to start. Another thing is too that's really great that I think I hope we'll see continue, is that if you're looking at employed positions on LinkedIn, a lot of companies are now disclosing the salary range, which can be helpful. I know, I think that's only in maybe California and New York, Chelsea, do you know? But hopefully we'll see more of that as time goes on.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Yeah, I'm not totally aware of that, but I think, yeah, those are all really helpful places to, to start with. So yeah, thank you for sharing all of that. And I know that it can just be so varied just because even the field itself of medical writing is so varied. But yeah, just having some of those resources where you can start to look into and so you can start to get a number for yourself. That's helpful. Thank you. And what is something that you wish you knew before pursuing medical writing? Maybe something that. Specifically told you, but you found out later and, wished someone had told you?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Number one I'm surprised by the number of The number of people in the clinical world that don't know that medical writing exists I think is interesting and I trust I was one of those people. I had no idea this was even a thing. So what would, I guess I wish I knew way back when. How many options there are for nonclinical careers or even nonclinical side gigs? I think a lot of us and I know it's changing now because, I, at a one of the last startups I worked with, I, I came in contact with a lot of medical students and so I, I know it's changing, but when I was going through school and training, I thought there was only just the one path. So I think I just, I wish I knew how many options there were and I probably would've been a little more aggressive in looking into'em from the beginning. Does that make sense?

Chelsea Turgeon:

It makes so much sense. Yes. And thank you for sharing that because it really is true that there's so many options and there's so much available to you. But it's almost like when you're on that. Straightforward, laid out path of clinical medicine. Your blinders are on in a way that you don't even realize. You have blinders on. And so just like you don't even know where to look for other opportunities, and you're just told this idea of this is all there is. Which is just not true. And so I think it's important to just have this sense of, there's so many

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

opportunities. So many opportunities. Yeah. And and even still, excuse me. Even still, I feel like I probably don't know everything that's available, but like I've been in enough interesting positions especially in the tech world that I don't know. I just, I feel like you just need to be open. Just ask questions. Ask questions and be open to learning. I came across a particular, a unique role recently just because I was willing to say yes, it was, this role was not well defined. And I had the opportunity to guide its evolution, if you will. And it's a, it was a lot of stuff that I didn't expect and a lot of stuff that I didn't feel prepared for, but I was willing to say yes and take a chance. There's all that to say. There just so many opportunities that I'm even still discovering. So just don't be afraid to, don't be afraid to say yes, I guess is what

Chelsea Turgeon:

I'm saying. Yeah, and that's just so powerful that 10 years in, you're still uncovering new opportunities. And so it just goes to show people that, like you never really know what's available. And I just always want people to assume and take on this filter of abundance or this sense of, there's no shortage of opportunities. There's no shortage of ways to put value into the world in exchange for financial compensation. Like it's only limited by essentially your imagination and your barriers that you place on yourself. But truly there is no limit and there's, positions evolving and things creating and, new technologies advancing all the time. And so there's just having that sense of possibility I think is just the most powerful way to, to view all of that. Yes, agreed. Put on those abundance glasses and just start to see all the possibilities. So you have given us so many pieces of advice and wisdom and information this whole episode, but what is one little like nugget of wisdom or a nugget of advice you'd give to somebody who is just feeling unhappy in their

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

career? That's a great question and I think I will go back to some of the stuff we talked about earlier when when I was telling you that the coach I worked with, years ago made me slow down and I take account of what my values were, what I wanted out of a career, and why I wanted to leave clinical medicine. Again, I think a lot of clinicians they're burnt out and for, for good reason, the state of healthcare as we all know. There's so many problems with healthcare in the United States, but I think you've got to, you're bound to repeat mistakes if you just jump ship into the next available thing or the highest paying thing or. Whatever it is that you think you should be doing. So I think just taking stock of where you are in your life, what you need out of your next position, what you want out of your next position, and making an educated, heartfelt decision, I think is gonna go a long way. Because if you just run to another, another position that's going to make you unhappy, then the cycle just repeats. So you know, if you want to. If you want to, what you do, if you want a fulfilling career then it makes sense to invest the time and the resources if necessary to get there. So I would say, yeah, just put in the effort and the time and slow down for a second. Even if you don't want to, it can be hard. But that would be my advice.

Chelsea Turgeon:

I love that, and it just can't be said enough that it's like taking time to do the inner work, asking the hard questions, asking yourself what you want, as opposed to what are the options, it's like you can get to the options after, but starting first with the inner work, which is something I feel like I'm always trying to tell people that's so necessary. So it's nice to have someone else.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

It's, I, yeah it's hard to, it's hard to hear when you're in it, right? Because I was that person. I contacted my coach. I was like, listen, we need to find me something in like the next two months. And she's whoa. Slow down. I was like, no, really? I need to get outta this job like now. So I was there. I get it 100%.

Chelsea Turgeon:

No judgment from me. Yeah. Yeah. And that's why it's like really nice to, start early, start figuring out, like when you start to have the sneaking suspicion before it gets to be this, necessary escape. And that's, that's something I talk to people about too, of sometimes you do need the escape. And so I. Just being clear about is this an escape path? Is this just like a bridge job to get you out of your current situation And just really calibrating expectations around all of that. But I feel like there's still so much more we could talk about and get into.'cause it's like we didn't even really get into all the other things you've done outside of just straight medical writing. So definitely we'll have to have you come back if you're open to it to break down some of the other things that you've been up to and some of the other possibilities and opportunities that are available. Absolutely. I would love to. And where can people find you and connect with you? We'll put all the links in the show notes, but just, where are you active and where can people reach out to you if they wanna connect with you after the show?

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Sure. LinkedIn is a good place. But if you wanna get to me directly, you can go to my website, armitage medical writing.com. There's a contact me link there that goes straight to my email or you can just straight up email me at armitage medical@gmail.com.

Chelsea Turgeon:

Awesome. Thank you so much for your generosity and your openness and just sharing your whole story with us. I know that this is gonna be an episode people listen to again and again just to take out all of the nuggets of wisdom in here.

Dr. Mandy Armitage:

Thank you for having me, Chelsea, and thank you for doing what you do. Yeah, keep doing the good work.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Life After Medicine Podcast. Make sure to leave a review and subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. If you wanna continue the conversation, share your takeaways, and connect with other like-minded healthcare workers, then come join us in the Life After Medicine Facebook group. The link to join the group is in the show notes. I can't wait to connect with you further.