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  • Writer's picturealicejblackmore

Three ways in which nursing experience informs my writing:

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

What qualities do I have to offer an editor of a magazine, healthcare organization, or medical device company as a nurse freelance writer?

One quality I bring to nurse content writing is my nursing experience.

Experience is hard to describe. It isn't tangible. It lives only in our minds. We can't touch it but it can cause lasting trauma. We can share an event and each take away a different memory. Experience shapes who we are and provides the lens through which we view the world.

Experience is often best described through story-telling. Do you recognize this iconic lake in the popular Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada? Many tourists visit this easily accessible landmark with its paved pathways and large parking lots.

I visited Lake Louise with my daughters and six-year old granddaughter this past September. Off to the right of Lake Louise, there is a sign pointing the way to the Lake Agnes Tea House. It is a 4.5 mile hike round trip and 1300 ft elevation gain; which is 7 km and 400 m if you live in Canada. The trail is rated as moderately challenging. After hearing about the delicious goodies served to those who make the hike, we set off with cash in hand and headed up.

As we climbed, we left behind Lake Louise to our left.

I knew we were going to be hiking upwards but I expected the path to have steep inclines and then level out to rest weary hikers legs. I was wrong. Except for one very short stretch of about ten feet, the path kept a very distinctive slope upwards.

We frequently stopped to catch our breath and rest. The trail was wide enough for us to sit or lean against rocks while letting faster hikers and those headed back down easily pass.

Just when we were feeling like giving up, encouraging signs began to appear. Only .5 kms to go. Now only .3kms. As with running, hiking is a battle of the mind. We dug a little deeper for the remaining vestiges of energy, and were soon rewarded with a glimpse of the Tea House perched at the top of a set of stairs breaching a steep cliff wall. We had arrived!

We joined a line-up of hungry hikers, who were snaked along the wooden steps at the far side of the Tea House, where we exchanged cash for hot chocolate and blueberry crumble. We would have been very sad hikers if we had only brought a bank card.

So, how did experience add to my knowledge and understanding? I learned that a moderately challenging trail to the Agnes Tea House meant that someone recovering from a runners knee injury, someone suffering from long covid symptoms, and someone who was six years old could navigate it. I also discovered that Blueberry Crumble is delicious after a long climb and that it was much colder at the higher elevation of Agnes Lake; and there were no mosquitoes in Banff in September. However, I cannot vouch for encountering these nasty bloodsucking insects in the earlier summer months.

So, what does a vigorous and challenging hike teach me about experience?

I've learned that it takes effort, fills in the gaps that research doesn't offer and provides a rich tone to life.

Experience gives a 3-D dimension to research. If I were researching how nurses respond to a code blue, I might read the algorithm explaining each step the code team needs to make. However, research doesn't show the emotion of how I calmly flip the caps off epinephrine ampoules to push the live-saving drug into the intravenous (IV) line; the one that doesn't exist yet because the other nurse is desperately looking for a viable vein.

Or I could describe how it feels to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). While standing on a stool, I lean with my whole weight resting on the palms of my hands. With fingers interlaced together, I push hard and fast, with enough force to squeeze blood from the heart to the brain. One-two-three-four-five ... thirty. Pause. Two breaths in and start again. I feel the crushing moment when the patient's ribs separate from their sternum, unable to withstand the force of my hands. Then after two minutes, soaked in sweat and breathing hard, I gratefully step off the stool and let the next person in the line take over.

I know the patient is probably not going to survive, so instead of resting, I go and stand beside the family who are numbly watching from the doorway. Quietly, I explain to them in language they can understand about what the doctor is ordering, the frantic lines scribed on the monitor from each hefty push to the chest, and why the nurses are drawing so many tubes of blood. And I talk to them about death.

These nursing experiences inform and enrich my writing in three ways:

  • Credibility Being a registered nurse validates my writing. It informs the reader that I have taken the requisite education and have hands-on practical experience in the medical field. This gives my nurse content writing a confident tone.

  • Translation of medical terminology into layman's terms I use layman's terms to explain difficult medical terms and procedures to patients and their families. My ability to speak with simplicity adds authority and authenticity to health articles.

  • Experience fills in the gaps My clinical expertise fills in the gaps that research doesn't capture. This adds interest and originality to story pieces.

Nursing experience is one quality that I bring to the health articles, web pages, blogs, and newsletters that I write for your magazines and businesses.

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