2. Why are You Writing?

Every job in the healthcare sector involves some writing. In this lesson we will consider the importance of effective writing. The two key concepts throughout will be clarity and simplicity.

In their book, Writing for Canadian Health Professionals, Lisa Salem-Wiseman and Sobia Zaman provide a number of reasons why writing in the health sector is an essential skill including1:

  • Your patients deserve the absolute best
  • Communication errors in the workplace translate into incompetence
  • Others look at what you write
  • Writing well protects you
  • The writing process mirrors essential workplace skills
  • Writing well is a tool for advancement and change

In this video, we are introduced to Lisa Salem-Wiseman who provides an overview of the importance of good writing and introduces the concept of inclusive writing.

(To read along click here.)

Your patients [and staff] deserve the absolute best. We all have to do everything in our power to best serve those who need our assistance and expertise. Whether we are communicating with patients or with other team members, our ability to express ourselves accurately and consistently when we write is an important part of the care we provide.

Communication errors in the workplace translate into incompetence. Making a writing error can sometimes lead to serious consequences, including dispensing the wrong dosage of a medication, or dispensing the wrong medication entirely. Poor communication among team members could also lead to confusion—a lack of understanding about new departmental policies, for example.

Others look at what you write. Maintaining proper documentation in every context is incredibly important. Solid writing helps to ensure that nothing is missed. It also serves as evidence, should a situation develop where it is needed. On the other hand, whatever is put in writing—if it is derogatory, discriminatory, sloppy, or negligent—can also be used as evidence.

Writing well protects you. If everything we write is clear, accurate, and organized, we have done our part in the communication chain.

The writing process mirrors essential workplace skills. Sensitivity in word choice when we write speaks to sensitivity in face-to-face interactions with people. An awareness of our audience speaks to an awareness of the context in which we work. Clarity in writing mirrors clarity of thought: we have to think clearly in order to write clearly.

Writing well is a tool for advancement and change. Not every memo needs to be a manifesto, but good writing does advance our agenda and vision, and leads to positive change.

1 Salem-Wiseman, L and Zaman, S. Writing for Canadian Health Professionals. Toronto: Nelson College Indigenous (2nd edition), 2014 – pp.2-7.

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