CPR for Your Medical Romance

Does the thought of your characters hurtling into a medical setting give you palpitations? Fear not.  You’re not having an MI1.  Charge the paddles to 200 and give your story a zap with convincing medical scenes.  Real-life details add credibility and substance while generating plot ideas.


C - Collect Facts

First decide how much research your idea requires.  If you only need to show your hero


in a hospital room, the information desk’s promotional packet with pictures and


descriptions of the units may be enough.  For a glimpse of where he’ll be doing therapy,


call to arrange a tour of the hospital or rehab unit and ask your general questions.  If


you’re really interested in a site and have some time and heart to devote, try volunteering


for a truly emotional perspective.


P- Peruse Medical Resources

Delve deeper into the medical world with reference books.  The Merck Manual describes illnesses and their treatment in detail, excellent for deciding how worried your heroine should be over Nevus-Cell Nevi2 and whether or not the hero will have a chance to be heroic when he learns of her diagnosis.  Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary can tell you what wheals3 are and why the heroine fell into the hero’s arms with them after eating peanut butter.  And if you’re not sure where to place the symptoms, check with a college anatomy book or medical terminology text which explains all those words that might confuse the heroine’s family.

This leads to the mysterious doctor language that will convince the hero he only has three days to live.  For a crash course in doctor-speak, watch ER for a healthy dose of the acronyms  bouncing around in medical settings.  Your heroine may not need a “mig” of “eppie,”4 but the handsome intern suturing her knee may dash away to save a boy with a GSW5 to the chest.

For specific questions on medical conditions, like whether your heroine may give birth during a coma, or recover enough from a spinal cord injury to walk, search medical journals.  Type Pubmed.com in your web browser and enter the keywords to find a list of articles and summaries.  If you need the articles STAT, you can pay to have them mailed to your door.  Otherwise visit the local university medical library to find them. 

Or consult Dr. Ola at eHarlequin in the Medical Clinic of the Writing Romance Community for a concise answer to your medical question.  Check out the related links.  If the idea of sorting through the medical jargon on your own leaves you as confused as your hero after his snowmobiling concussion, consult a librarian for a pointed online search.


R- Remember Plot and Romance

Still more resources can have our hero shouting doctor language like a third year resident.  Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, contains a wonderful chapter, The Medical Thriller.  Tess Gerritsen outlines the path of schooling for your med student hero resolved to run a free clinic for underserved children.  To ensure romance blooms amidst the IV pumps and screaming monitors, visit Heartbeat.  Heartbeat is the Online RWA Chapter of Medical Romance Writers.  Articles and updates may shape your manuscript and target editors.  Membership places you among writers with similar goals and interests.


Now get out there and give your medical scene some CPR!  Send your hero crashing into the ER cradling his unconscious beloved.  Use medical drama to pump up the pace and pressure in your story.


1.        Myocardial Infarction- heart attack

2.        moles

3.        welts

4.        milligram of epinephrine

5.        gun shot wound



Copyright 2005.  Originally appeared in Rumpled Sheets, February 2004, Publication of the Missouri Romance Writers of America.  Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for right to reprint.