Bill (name changed) has a book partially written sitting on the hard drive of his computer. He reads other books written on the same subject and says, “My book is better.” But he is stuck, unable to finish it. When I asked Bill why he was blocked, he said, “I’m dyslexic. I get lost in the material.”
My eyes sparkled. I understand how to organize material. I like to organize material. Here’s what I told Bill and how it can help you when you are writing your legal nurse consulting report.
1. Bill’s book is written about a model that has 8 parts. I suggested he create 8 chapters, one for each of the components of the model. By sorting the information into chapters, he would see where his holes were. Some parts would be shorter; some parts would be longer, and he could see if any information needed to be moved. I suggested he print out the book and physically reshuffle it. When he found a section on page 3 that needed to be moved to page 21, he would make a note in the margin as to where he should move it. On page 21, he’d write a corresponding note that would tell him where to insert the material.
Legal nurse consulting reports typically have a beginning, a middle and an ending. An expert witness report has
- a list of documents reviewed,
- a summary of medical events,
- a discussion of the standard of care, and
- a conclusion about how the standard was followed – or not.
A personal injury medical summary may have
- a description of the accident,
- the symptoms the patient displayed at the scene,
- the initial medical treatment,
- the ongoing medical treatment,
- pertinent diagnostic tests and their results, and
- statements about maximum medical improvement, prognosis, permanency and causal relationship between the accident and the injuries
2. I suggested to Bill that he divide the chapters using headers and subheaders. He would then see if he had material that had to be reshuffled.
A legal nurse consulting report is improved by dividing the report into sections. The headers divide the report into sections and help set up an expectation about the material that follows. The contrast between bold headers and unbolded text is pleasing to the eye.
3. I suggested to Bill that he create an outline of each chapter, using the headers and subheaders, and that would help him see the organization. Then Bill’s eyes sparkled and he said that he likes to use mindmaps to organize information, and they are easier for him to use than sequential outlines.
There are several sources of free mindmapping software on the internet. I have a few kinds of mindmapping software but have not taken the time to learn how to use them. You can create an outline for a report, type in the headers, and then go back and fill in the sections. If you are creating the same type of report over and over, it is easier to start with a template/outline. This is particularly effective if you are extracting the same data elements from each set of medical records. For example, we worked on cases involving pedicle plates and screws, vaginal mesh, and hepatitis-contaminated gamma globulin. We prepared a medical summary, time line, analysis, list of missing records, list of exhibits, and chronology for each set of medical records. Each patient’s reports followed the same format. I’ve used the same approach with product liability cases, personal injury cases, and with a criminal investigation involving a nurse mass murderer.
When you are finding yourself lost in the material, take a step back and determine which components of a framework will help you organize your material. Experiment with different ways to organize your material and you’ll find a system that makes sense and works for you.
Pat Iyer is the author or editor of over 30 books. The largest book involved 52 chapters. She has written hundreds of legal nurse consulting reports. Get Pat’s handy guide on How to Get Published to jumpstart your writing career.