Volunteer Technical Writers Fight COVID-19 Writing Documentation for Medical Devices

Jun 3, 2020

The COVID-19 global health crisis has created an unprecedented demand for medical devices and personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line healthcare workers, as well as a need for a massive dissemination of health and research-related information.

Technical writers have volunteered time and expertise to fight COVID-19 by responding to the need for information. In an organised effort, TWi has been working with non-profits as they seek to meet the urgent demands for medical supplies created by COVID-19. Volunteer technical writers are supporting these non-profit projects with documentation.

TWi Partners with Tech Writers Without Borders

TWi partnered with Tech Writers Without Borders (TWWB), a volunteer organisation that supports non-profit efforts by supplying volunteer technical writers. The two organisations launched a campaign to match volunteer technical writers with non-profits in need of specialised documentation and information to support the global COVID-19 response effort.

The response from volunteers was overwhelming. In one week, more than 130 technical writers from across Europe, the United States, and Asia contacted us to volunteer their time and expertise.

How Technical Writers Support Medical Documentation

In a normal world, medical equipment manufacturing and distribution require regulatory oversight. Equipment and supplies used in healthcare undergo stringent testing, validation, and approvals.

The process of getting useful aids from design to the healthcare industry is long and requires documentation at each stage. Initial designs, technical specifications, grant applications for funding, and instructions for use are a few of the documentation requirements at various stages.

In the COVID-19 world, many regulatory agencies have relaxed compliance requirements, and volunteer organisations have sprung up around the world to fast-track the delivery of needed supplies directly to front-line healthcare workers.

Engineers design devices and PPE using available materials; supply chain experts identify and source supplies from unlikely resources; universities and individuals offer use of 3D printing machines to print parts; and volunteers load up trucks and vans to deliver face shields, non-invasive ventilators, protective clothing, and other urgently needed supplies to doctors and nurses.

From initial design to final delivery, regulated or non-regulated, technical writers are using their expertise to facilitate the documentation and informational products required at each stage. They may take hand-sketched equipment designs and transform them into documents with technical specifications. They document processes of volunteer teams, consisting of designers and engineers, as they work. They write, edit, and publish regulatory documents, safety notices, and instructions for use.

In short, medical supplies are delivered with information, and technical writers are specialists at knowing what information to deliver, and how.

Technical Writers Support Medical Device and PPE Manufacturing

TWi and TWWB have placed technical writers and provided project management for several organisations active at an international level.

In one project, internal writers at TWi created documents for a ventilator design that uses a commercially available scuba mask paired with a Charlotte valve, designed in Italy during the COVID-19 crisis, to provide oxygen to patients that require non-invasive pulmonary support.

In another project, volunteers are providing ongoing technical writing support to Open Source Ventilators (OSV), an international group of volunteer engineers and designers (among other professions), who are currently developing (and in some cases delivering) face shields, infrared thermometers, bubble masks, protective clothing, and other health-related products.

Together, We Can Help

We are all finding unexpected lessons in the current environment. TWi, a technical writing service company accustomed to servicing the tech and pharma industry, has lent support to volunteers whose expertise may lie outside healthcare and technical writing. We have been delighted to see that these volunteer opportunities have provided an environment where we have learned, and so have others.

TWi and TWWB adopted an impromptu slogan: Together, we can help. We have discovered another truism: Together, we can learn.

Non-profit organisations with a need for technical writers, tell us about your project by chatting with our Volunteer Bot at this link. We’ll have someone contact you.


Images Used

  • Image by Brian McGowan, licensed by Unsplash
  • Image by Clark Tibbs, licensed by Unsplash
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