Becoming a published author in the medical landscape can be a rewarding and productive experience.

There are many motivations to write. Publishing can help lay a foundation of scholarship on which research and funding opportunities can be built. Publishing can also be a powerful way to “join the conversation” of current topics, and express individual concerns and questions. But many nurses wonder: How do I get started? 

Finding a topic of interest is the first step to publishing. Ask yourself: What message do you want to share? Do you have new information and/or perspectives to offer, such as new case studies, new measures/instruments/tools, or stories of patients and families? If the answer is “yes,” you may have a strong candidate for a manuscript. However, before you invest ample time into researching and writing, think about where you see your piece appearing in publication. A letter of inquiry should be sent to the publication/journal editors to inquire as to whether or not the publication is interested in considering such a topic for publication. Perhaps they have just agreed to a publish a piece on a similar topic to yours or might recommend your topic for another publication. Knowing whether or not an editor is interested in your topic can save you time and effort. 

Writing an article for a journal or other publication is not the only option to publishing. A number of other forums exist. Editors recommend that you start small and build to full-length articles. 

  • Newsletters
  • Consumer publications
  • Peer-reviewed publications
  • Letters to the editor
    • Response to published content
  • Case studies
    • Focused on a singular topic
  • Clinical reviews and updates
    • State-of-the-science papers
  • Literature reviews
    • Integrative or systematic reviews
  • Research articles
    • Qualitative or quantitative studies

Generating a topic and manuscript can be overwhelming. Editors recommend finding a mentor—a colleague, coworker, friend—to help you reach your publishing goals. This mentorship can be formal or informal—the key is to find strong readers and writers who can provide feedback and suggestions, even if he/she doesn’t know oncology nursing. There are formal mentorship programs, such as one offered through the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, that pairs novice writers with seasoned authors. These pairs work to produce a full-length article over six months from inception to publication. (See more information on this mentorship program at An additional option is to consider publishing as a coauthor, collaborating with other writers to produce a manuscript. 

     Once your manuscript is underway, seek assistance as needed. Editors stress that your credibility is your most valuable commodity, so take the steps necessary to maintain it. Follow guidelines from publications carefully and reach out to editors and journal staff for guidance. Again, make use of colleagues, mentors, and other writers to ensure your manuscript has reached its best potential. And be mindful of the publications to which you submit—find a reputable publication to house your work. Publishing in the wrong forum can be the difference between your publication credit being taken seriously or not, or reaching a readership.

For those oncology nurses who are interested in writing, there are ample opportunities to build up one’s authorship experience.  

  • From co-authored articles to single or first authorship
  • Book projects and chapters 
  • Single book authorship and editor roles
  • Speaking engagements
  • Academic progression and tenure 
  • Volunteer activities with publications
    • Peer review boards
    • Mentorship programs
    • Editorial board participation

Although the path to publishing may seem complex, the key thing to remember is that these forums exists to make your voice heard; if you have something to say, it may be time to pick up your pen.

Editor’s note: This article is a summary of a presentation given Anne Katz, PhD, RN (Editor, Oncology Nursing Forum), Lisa Kennedy Sheldon, PhD, ANP-BC, AOCNP® (Editor, Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing), and Leslie McGee, MA (Managing Editor, Oncology Nursing Society) at the 2016 ONS 41st Annual Congress.