1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, CGRN, Editor

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At a recent strategic planning meeting with the Editorial Board of Gastroenterology Nursing, we discussed a decade-old challenge of finding authors willing to write for novice and advanced beginner readers. Although we are quite proud that Gastroenterology Nursing is now publishing many research studies that are the basis for our science in the specialty, we are challenged to publish clinical articles enjoyed by new practitioners because no one is writing them!! We cannot publish manuscripts we don't have. There is a great need for our journal to address the needs of a broad audience: technicians, staff nurses, managers, advanced practice nurses, multidisciplinary team members, and scientists, all with varied experience in our specialty-and we need authors to write for that broad readership.

Figure. Kathy A. Bak... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Kathy A. Baker, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, CGRN, Editor

Writing for publication is a skill just like other aspects of patient care. Initially, when someone begins as a novice author, it takes effort, practice, and perseverance to complete a manuscript. Over time, with feedback from reviewers and a demonstrated commitment to success, writing becomes second nature for many authors. To be a first-time author, however, you have to write that first manuscript!!


I have always viewed writing for publication as a professional expectation, so I committed early in my career to fulfill that expectation. I certainly never dreamed I would be as successful as I have been as an author, nor did I ever dream I would be an editor. I just set out to make a contribution in writing that I hoped would assist other colleagues to improve their knowledge and think more broadly. Interestingly, my very first manuscript was published in Gastroenterology Nursing on esophageal prostheses. The rest is history!!


Writing does take discipline and effort. One of the most important aspects of writing for a new author is to just "brain dump" on paper initially. Don't try to compose a well-written paragraph as you go. Just get those ideas out. Later, you can organize and polish your work so that it flows succinctly and smoothly. Initially, however, it is more important to get your ideas written down so that you do not lose them while the creative juices are flowing.


On occasion, the creative juices just do not flow. You have probably heard of writer's block, when an author cannot make progress on a manuscript because the author's thoughts are stifled. If you experience writer's block, use your time differently. Read articles other authors have written on your subject to help stimulate your thoughts. Spend time on the "polish" and technical aspects of your manuscript (i.e., check spelling, grammar, and punctuation) instead of trying to write new content. Read what you have written slowly, out loud so that problems will become more obvious to you. Even if you are not far along in the manuscript construction process, those polishing efforts will mean a few less steps later in the process. Remember, sometimes taking a break, even though you are still working on the manuscript, will help to get your ideas flowing again.


Deciding what to write about for a nurse author is not as a much of a challenge as you might think. I encourage nurses to consider writing their first manuscript using a clinical case study. Readers love case studies because they are application oriented, and nothing is easier to write than a reflection on a past experience. You must be careful to protect the identity of your patient if you are giving specific details of a real case; in fact, many authors will construct a clinical case using a real patient as inspiration, but changing some of the details to more accurately demonstrate the educational aspects they want to communicate to the reader. For case studies that are not factual, the author does not need patient permission to print; for case studies that reflect a real patient's experience, the author must get the patient's permission to publish the case study, even if the patient's name is not used, because someone close to the case might be able to identify who the patient is. Typically, patients are thrilled to have their story shared if it will help someone else, so permission is not usually an issue, and the patients feel honored to be a part of something bigger than themselves.


Other topics that new authors can easily address are aspects of nursing care such as patient education, endoscopic procedures, ethical challenges in patient care, evidence-based practices, infection control issues, and quality improvement strategies that have been successful in the author's practice setting. If you have been thinking of writing for publication, I encourage you to try your hand at authorship. The Gastroenterology Nursing Editorial Board and I are happy to mentor and encourage you every step of the way. And if you are attending the SGNA 37th Annual Course in Orlando, April 30 through May 5, plan to attend the Writing for Publication workshop where you will be able to work face-to-face with experienced authors and members of the Editorial Board. The time is right for you to make a contribution to our discipline as a nurse author. Just take the first step.