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Student Careers

How to write a medical case report

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 27 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:h3731
  1. Seema Biswas, editor-in-chief, BMJ Case Reports, London, UK ,
  2. Oliver Jones, student editor, BMJ Case Reports, London, UK

Two BMJ Case Reports journal editors take you through the process

This article contains...

  • - Choosing the right patient

  • - Choosing the right message

  • - Before you begin - patient consent

  • - How to write your case report

  • - How to get published

During medical school, students often come across patients with a unique presentation, an unfamiliar response to treatment, or even an obscure disease. Writing a case report is an excellent way of documenting these findings for the wider medical community—sharing new knowledge that will lead to better and safer patient care.

For many medical students and junior doctors, a case report may be their first attempt at medical writing. A published case report will look impressive on your curriculum vitae, particularly if it is on a topic of your chosen specialty. Publication will be an advantage when applying for foundation year posts and specialty training, and many job applications have points allocated exclusively for publications in peer reviewed journals, including case reports.

The writing of a case report rests on skills that medical students acquire in their medical training, which they use throughout their postgraduate careers: these include history taking, interpretation of clinical signs and symptoms, interpretation of laboratory and imaging results, researching disease aetiology, reviewing medical evidence, and writing in a manner that clearly and effectively communicates with the reader.

If you are considering writing a case report, try to find a senior doctor who can be a supervising coauthor and help you decide whether you have a message worth writing about, that you have chosen the correct journal to submit to (considering the format that the journal requires), that the process is transparent and ethical at all times, and that your patient is not compromised in your writing. Indeed, try to include your patient in the process from the …

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