These days so many novels feature a character getting injured or struck with a medical condition. I used to teach an online class with a nurse practitioner friend called Medical Speak for Writers because we thought it was important to get the facts straight. Whether you write medical romances or any other sort of book, chances are at some point, you will write an injury, disease or condition into one of your books.
A writer often has to work backwards when it comes to diseases and injuries. We probably have a certain outcome in mind when our hero or heroine is shot or stabbed. Therefore we must learn where their wound should be on the body for the desired outcome. In the case of one of my recent WIPs, I wanted the elderly woman to have dementia, but not all the time. I wanted her to grow progressively sicker.
In order to get the details right, I used several online resources that are readily available. But which sites can you trust? So we developed a list of the most trusted sites for accurate medical information for the class. Here are some of our top picks:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/ - Mayo Clinic site for diseases and conditions, symptom checker (see below), listing of medical tests, first aid procedures and more.
http://www.webmd.com/ - Web MD, top source for accurate info on all sorts of medical conditions, first aid and emergency care, medications and mental health.
http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/ - CNN’s page for health news also has information on various more common diseases and conditions.
http://health.nih.gov/ - Part of the government sponsored site for the National Institutes of Health. As well as information on many medical conditions, you can also find out about ongoing research and grant programs. An interesting link will take you to minority-specific health sites, something we did not see anywhere else.
http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/ - Another government sponsored site but this one allows you to research various poisons and their effects.
http://cdc.gov/ - Yet another government resource. This site allows you to research rare diseases found in all corners of the world.
http://symptoms.webmd.com/ - Do you want to plug in symptoms and find a condition that fits? Symptom Checker from Web MD is a lifesaver when you need your character to have specific symptoms. Just plug in the information and the site will give you a list of conditions that match.
http://www.drugs.com/pdr/ - Physician’s Desk Reference. The online consumer version of the medical bible of pharmaceuticals is written in layman’s terms. Features a section to help identify pills, a drug interaction calculator, drugs by condition and possible side effects.
http://i.nursegroups.com/nursing-article/medicine-through-time.html - Medicine Through Time. Details different time periods in history and tells a bit about the medicine available and the practices used at various points in history.
You will also find many sites sponsored by foundations for various conditions. For example, searching “breast cancer” will yield many millions of sites. This is why it’s good to stick to only a few trusted sites for your information. There’s so much misinformation out there, why risk making a factual error?
Of course, as writers, we always have the option of making up a disease, condition or a type of poison, depending on what type of story we are writing. I read a futuristic romance years ago where the main character was injecting her victims with a drug that incapacitated them. In such a story, it’s easy to get away with creating a drug if it’s part of your world building, for example. But if you are going for realism, accuracy is a must. The moment a reader or editor catches a factual error, you lose all credibility and risk losing that reader.
Do you have any other sites you use for this type of info that you could add to the list? Please share.
Wynter Daniels has authored more than three dozen romances, including contemporary, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance books for several publishers including Entangled Publishing and Carina Press. She lives in sunny Florida with her family and a very spoiled cat. You can find her on the web on Facebook, Twitter and her website.