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“When asked, ‘How do you write?’

I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time.’”

–Stephen King


  • Writing something can be compared with anatomy: If you passed your anatomy course in nursing school, you can write for publication.

  • Like nursing, publishing has a specific process that you can follow.

  • Collaboration is just as important with your publishing team as it is with a healthcare team.

Writing is a skill. Like other nursing skills—such as starting an IV, suctioning a patient, or analyzing an ECG strip—writing can be learned. That doesn’t mean you will necessarily become the next Maya Angelou or Malcolm Gladwell or be able to emulate your favorite nurse author, but you can become confident enough in your writing to achieve a variety of goals, from publishing your first journal article to contributing to your organization’s newsletter.

Of course, nurses have different levels of expertise for different skills. For example, we learn how to insert an IV in nursing school, and for many of us, this becomes a daily part of our routine. However, you likely know of at least one nurse who is particularly adept at IV insertion. When you have a difficult “stick,” you can rely on their advanced expertise, right?

Writing can be the same way. Some might be much better at it than others, but every nurse can learn the basic skill. Learning how to write is your first step in becoming a published author. You also need to learn the ropes about how publishing works. This chapter gives you an overview of the writing, editing, and publishing process. Subsequent chapters give you many more details, but by the end of this chapter, you should see the big picture of writing for publication.


Many articles have been written about why nurses should write. Although the most basic reason is to disseminate information, others find that writing can help them with job advancement, academic work, and sharing what works in practice. For example, a single nurse speaking in front of an audience about the latest treatment for sepsis might reach, at best, a few hundred nurses. But after your work is in print or online as a journal article, a chapter in a book, a magazine article, or even a newsletter write-up, your contribution is much more widely available, particularly if your published piece is indexed in one of the large databases that researchers and clinicians search for information.

Writing gives you the opportunity to (adapted from Saver, 2006b):

  • Share information (for example, an inspirational experience with a patient)

  • Improve patient care (for example, a program for reducing pressure injuries that improves outcomes)

  • Promote yourself (for example, tenure track for faculty, professional development ladder, getting your name known so you can speak at national ...

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