Association of Health Care Journalists Screen ShotWhen I wrote recently about setting up your freelance writer office, I mentioned reference books (how quaint!) and software. But I didn’t delve very deeply into online resources that can help you in your career as a freelance nurse writer. Here are some of my favorite web hangouts.

Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ)

If you meet the criteria for membership, you should join AHCJ. Among the many benefits for freelance nurse-writers, AHCJ offers:

  • Great listserv for getting advice, finding sources and more
  • A freelance health journalist directory
  • Local chapters for in-person networking and educational seminars
  • ‘Covering Health’ blog that provides story ideas
  • Free access to journals and databases

It’s that last perk that really pays off. In my job as a freelance nurse-writer, I rely heavily on databases that offer accurate background information on various diseases and conditions. Probably my favorite database is UpToDate.com. An individual subscription to UpToDate would run around $500, so that one benefit alone makes AHCJ membership worthwhile for me.

I also use Elsevier’s ScienceDirect a lot for backgrounding health and wellness pieces. ScienceDirect allows you to set up personalized alerts by keyword search or topic to receive an email whenever something new is published in one of Elsevier’s database of 2500 journals. You can use these alerts as the foundation of story pitches.

FastStats

This web portal sponsored by the CDC provides just what it says: fast statistics on many topic areas, from diseases to insurance. FastStats is free for everyone. As with ScienceDirect, you can receive email alerts from FastStats whenever something new is published to your areas of interest. Just set up a profile and let the magic happen.

Because statistics add richness to any health article, I find myself at FastStats nearly every time I write something.

Health News Review

A part of me always shudders when I report a health story because I fear it will wind up picked apart on HealthNewsReview.org. Luckily it hasn’t happened yet. And that’s probably because I refer to their journalistic criteria often when I report stories. I always try to go down their checklist of the 10 elements every health journalism story should include. If you’re just starting out as a nurse-writer, you’d do well to study Health News Review and bookmark the site to ensure the “accuracy, balance and completeness” (as HNR puts it) of every story you report.

National Institutes of Health websites

Again, for getting background info for stories or healthcare content, you can’t go wrong starting with the NIH. Their websites cover just about every health topic under the sun. When beginning any health story, I always visit NIH first to get a good overview of the topic, then move on to sites like ScienceDirect for the most recent research articles.

AlphaGalileo

This website allows you to sign up for embargoed news releases. Embargoed means no one can publish a story related to the news release until the date the embargo lifts. This system levels the playing field by reducing (but not eliminating) “scoops” of big news stories. (I say “doesn’t eliminate” because certain large news organizations ignore embargoes. Don’t be like them.)

AlphaGalileo covers breaking research from every geographical region in the world and several disciplines including:

  • Applied science
  • Arts
  • Business
  • Health
  • Humanities
  • Society
  • Sciences

And many more.

Registration for freelance journalists is free, but AlphaGalileo has a rigorous vetting process so don’t apply if you don’t have clips. They also accept bloggers now, but again you have to prove your ‘reputability’ in order to gain access to embargoed news releases. It’s worth jumping through the hoops because these releases provide a near-endless supply of story ideas for you to pitch to editors.

Newswise

Similar to AlphaGalileo, but U.S.-centric, Newswise offers free registration to journalists. You’ll receive one newsletter each day that contains headlines and embargoed press releases. The other benefit of subscribing to a free service like Newswise is the opportunity to develop a source list in your niche. Don’t overlook the value of the electronic Rolodex┬« in this technological age. Any good journalist still needs reliable sources who give great quotes.

Freelance Success

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Freelance Success as a key online resource for me. This group of successful freelance writers generously shares information, leads and insider knowledge on the Freelance Success forums. But beyond the professional networking, several separate forums allow me to commune with fellow writers on a personal and human level — celebrating the success of family members, getting and receiving moral support when a personal catastrophe strikes (and they always do, at some time or another), and sharing hilarious stories just for fun. I’ve relied on my FLX (as we call it) family to get me through some dark personal times, and I’ve also been the grateful beneficiary of some mentoring. Subscriptions to Freelance Success run a mere $99 per year, and you also receive a weekly newsletter that contains a market guide plus a free professional profile (where editors actually search to find good writers). Membership is worth every penny.

I use many other online resources. I recommend you create an organized bookmarking system so you can quickly and easily access the websites that become the most valuable to you in your career as a freelance nurse-writer. Becoming efficient at research can increase your effective “pay rate,” so don’t slouch on organization.

What online resources do you find beneficial as a writer? Which great sites did I miss? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Wishing you well!

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