“REFLECTING on poetry, and indeed on all the Arts, can produce a different sort of doctor: one who is richer and deeper as an individual.”
So writes Dr Brendan Sweeney – MDDUS Chairman – in the foreword to a unique resource being distributed to all doctors graduating in Scotland in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Tools of the Trade: Poems for New Doctors is a short collection of verse that “speaks to the experience of being a junior doctor”. Many of the poems are written by doctors themselves, including Dannie Abse, Iain Bamforth, Glenn Colquhoun, Gael Turnbull and Martin MacIntyre (who wrote the title poem below).
The volume is published by the Scottish Poetry Library with additional support from the Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland) and MDDUS.
Copies can be purchased from the online shop at the Scottish Poetry Library – but for a limited time final year students and foundation doctors across the UK can request a free copy from MDDUS. Email us with a note of your address to FYi@mddus.com
Tools of the Trade
New doctors will be empowered by poems
in the pockets of their metaphorical white coats.
There at the ready:
on early, sweaty, scratchy, ward rounds
to deploy while waiting patiently for the consultant’s
give filing, phlebotomy and form-filling an edge
sweeten tea-breaks as if with juxtaposed Jaffa Cakes
to answer that persistent bleep—while sneaking a pee,
to travel the manic crash and flat-lined emptiness of
thole the inevitability of the inevitable;
to pace with careful cadence;
stop and breathe usefully
arrive ready not to recite by rote;
to be alone with on the boisterous bus home
to txt anxious Mums and Dads—‘Are you remembering
to feed yourself?’
‘YES. LOL. Smiley-face—perhaps a frog?’
to place strategically on the cup-ringed cabinet—first
thrust under the sun-torn pillow on the morning
following the first night on-call
find undisturbed, but at a different verse, following the
jumpy party, following the first night on-call
to steal insights into the science of nurses’ smiles
to prepare for change.
To take a full history, examine closely and reach a
working diagnosis: ‘You are a human being.’
‘The stars sing as whitely as the mountains.’
To investigate with prudence.
To reconsider the prognosis in the light of better-quality
To appreciate; pass on; ponder
be accosted by dignity.
To forgive and free.
Martin MacIntyre (b 1965) is a Scottish poet, novelist, storyteller and doctor who writes in English and Gaelic