Thursday, January 12, 2012

Writing Your Prescription

Our regularly scheduled programming was delayed due to the family stomach flu making its presence known. After a day of being wiped out and generally useless, I figured it was time to talk about medical issues in writing.

If it hasn't come out before, I work as a physician assistant. No, I'm not still working on finishing medical school as some people ask. Being a PA is its own profession. We just were saddled with an unfortunate title when we started. Some people want us to be physician associates(?), but I digress.

Obviously it is easy for me to write medically in my fiction, and it is a great way to introduce conflict, tension, or roadblocks to my characters. For those who aren't in the medical field and want to make a medical condition a part of their book, it takes good research to make it believable. That's true for everything, but there's plenty that can go wrong in medical research. I read a novel with an astronaut who was hiding multiple sclerosis. No way would she have been able to hide such a thing, and it always bugged me when it came into play in the plot.

There's plenty to be found on the internet these days, but you do have to be careful of your sources. Someone came to me today asking about "liver stones." Google can be an enemy as much as a friend here!

I would suggest reading from reputable sources first of all. WebMD, CDC, your professional organizations like the American Heart Association - all of these would be good primary sources. If you want to address a controversial issue, look for those as well, but make sure you understand the foundation of the issue and both sides if you can.

Don't just rely on the web. Most health care providers I know would be happy to give you some advice. I would be fine answering questions, and I have asked specialists at conferences about issues that were out of my field of practice. Be respectful of their busy schedules, and I am sure you can find someone who can help you out.

One person who has a specific blog for this is Jordyn Redwood's "Redwood's Medical Edge." She is a nurse with lots of emergency and pediatric experience, and she provides regular content on medical issues, from historical medicine to current issues. Want to know how fast someone would bleed to death? She's got the info for you!

If I have one pet peeve, it is characters' getting hurt in some way, and the author forgets about it. Mary Sue just leaped from her second story window to escape the Big Bad Guy, and hurt her ankle - but she still runs away a few pages later with nary a limp. Keep it real, people!

This is a quick discussion of medical issues in fiction. There are so many avenues to explore here. If there are specific topics anyone would like me to discuss, leave them in the comments and we can have fun with those. 

Just remember to wash your hands people!


  1. Jason,

    I totally understand your point about PA's. You do have your own practice just like nursing has its own practice and it wasn't because we "failed" medical school. I chose nursing for a reason.

    Absolutely loved this post! Great pointers-- particularly about an injury affecting a character for more than just the few seconds the injury happened.

    Thank you so much for the mention of my blog. I really appreciate the support.

  2. Jordyn,
    Glad to point to you. I think you've got a good thing going there - and I love your blog header. Very cool.

    If you ever need a guest post, give me a buzz.