Getting an article published in a nursing journal may seem daunting to novice writers, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. RN editors and authors offer these pointers to help aspiring authors convert good ideas into published work.
Recognize the Opportunity
Most nursing journal articles are written by nurse educators required to conduct and publish research. However, staff nurses, nurse managers and nurse administrators have ample opportunity to write about their cases or workplace innovations.
"There are close to 200 nursing journals," says Elizabeth Poster, PhD, RN, FAAN, editor of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing and dean of the University of Texas at Arlington School of Nursing. "Think about the volume of articles needed to fill those journals."
Choose a Compelling Topic
During her six years as a nurse manager, nurse recruitment and retention captivated novice writer Kristina Ibitayo, MSN, RN. Her article on the subject, "Understand Health Care's True Cost," has been accepted for publication by Nursing Management. "You have to write about a topic you're passionate about and intensely interested in," says Ibitayo, a certified ambulatory perianesthesia nurse at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview, Texas.
Beware the Common Pitfalls
You can overcome writer's block as well as warm up your writing skills by penning a few smaller pieces, like short columns or book reviews. When you're ready to tackle a longer journal article, pay attention to organization, Poster says. "Outline your article before you write it, and don't jump from one topic to another and back again," she says. "Clarity is very important."
Before submitting your article, always have a trusted friend or colleague critique it, says Jeanette Daly, PhD, RN, a geriatric nurse researcher in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Iowa. "If you don't get much feedback from the people proofing it, you don't have the right people doing the job," says Daly, who has authored dozens of articles about elder abuse.
Research Potential Publishers
Each nursing publication has its own purpose and audience, so make sure your desired topic lines up with the journal you're targeting. Also, look at how that journal's articles are formatted. Paying close attention to issues like headings and subheadings will help you structure your article to the journal's style.
Study the Writers' Guidelines
You'll find the journal's purpose, article layout guidelines and other information for authors here. "If the writers' guidelines say to write in a certain style, your chances of getting published will improve if you do it," Ibitayo says.
The guidelines will also tell you how a journal wants articles submitted. Some prefer that you first pitch your idea via query letter, but you can just send several copies of your manuscript to others.
You can find authors' guidelines and editors' email addresses for many nursing journals at Online Nursing Editors.
If you don't hear anything a few months after submitting your manuscript, call the publication, Poster advises. You're professionally obligated to submit your article to only one journal at a time -- another reason to take such care in targeting the right publication.
Prepare Yourself for the Process
Once a journal expresses interest in your article, there's more work to do. You may be asked to revise or even rewrite it, tackling issues as small as consistency in terminology or as large as incorporating more references or additional statistics. The process of initial submission to publication may take as long as three years and several rounds of revisions, Poster says, since both the author and the nurse reviewers who recommend changes have other full-time jobs. "In my 10 years as an editor, I think there have been fewer than half a dozen articles that have required no revision whatsoever," Poster says.
If one journal rejects your article, consider reworking it and submitting it elsewhere. "You can only improve if you keep trying," Daly says.
Ibitayo found the process of converting her ideas into an article gratifying. "Getting my article accepted was exciting, because I know my thoughts are valid and have a place in the wide world of nursing," she says. "And anyone who says it's not exciting to see your name in print is lying."