Being a Writer Doesn’t Mean I’m No Longer a Nurse

Marijke Vroomen Durning
Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

I was 17 when I entered college and the world of nursing. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, but nursing seemed like a good bet.

As the years passed, I began to realize that I wasn’t in the right profession. I wanted to write. I loved the magic created by words. To me, words were threads in a magic carpet and I wanted to be one of the weavers. But how could I realistically expect to be a writer? I didn’t even know where to start. And what about my responsibilities? My bills? I knew it would never be more than a dream.

But wait! In the early 90s, I spied a tiny ad in the Montreal Gazette: “Wanted: Nurse with good communication skills who is comfortable with computers.” It had my name all over it. I had been around computers all my life, I was a nurse, and I could write. Soon, I was working from home, helping a new health information company get off the ground. A few jobs later, I moved from employee to freelance writer – one with a niche.

My blog title, Marijke: Nurse Turned Writer, says it all. Some clients find me because they type “nurse writer” into Google and my blog comes up at or near the top. Of course, anyone can write health information, but my nursing background gives me a unique insight into issues that their readers may have. And having this insight is why I landed my anchor client of the past three years. The folks over at Sepsis Alliance needed a health writer who had knowledge of sepsis. But when I answered their CraigsList ad, they got me.

Now, aside from writing their content, I answer emails and respond to messages on social media from people who are suffering or are scared. I know what to say and how to say it. I can be trusted to answer with medically sound information and to know my limits.

I’ve been hired by other organizations to write health-related blogs and articles, because they like that I have an “RN” behind my name. I’ve had clients looking for nurses to write patient education material. I can do that because I know what questions patients might ask. I’ve been that person who has taught a newly diagnosed diabetic how to inject insulin or the asthmatic child’s parents how to listen for wheezing. I’ve spoken to people as they sat by a loved one in an ICU or a hospice bed. I’ve helped parents welcome their newborn. I’ve been there. And I can write about it.

I never imagined my life would take this course, but I couldn’t be happier. Writing is a huge leap from nursing, but without my nursing, I wouldn’t be where I am today, happily typing away at my keyboard, interviewing people, and crafting work that I’m proud of. I’m a writer. I’m a nurse. I’m both.