Tools of the trade

A new edition of a pocket-sized poetry book that speaks to the experience of being a junior doctor

  • Date: 29 July 2019

WHAT are your essential tools of the trade? People might assume a stethoscope but if you ask most young doctors today they would probably reply their smartphone. It’s doubtful anyone would say a book of poetry.

And yet this is what was presented to all doctors graduating from medicine this year in Scotland. Tools of the Trade is a pocket-sized volume of medically themed poetry first published in 2014 and offered “simply as a compassionate friend” to Scottish medical graduates that year and in 2015. Now a new edition of the book has been published for doctors graduating in Scotland in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – thanks to the support of both MDDUS and the Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland).

All the poems speak in some way to the experience of being a junior doctor, say the editors. Some of the poets featured in the book are or were doctors themselves, including Dannie Abse, Rafael Campo, Glenn Colquhoun, and Martin MacIntyre. Different poems suit different situations and readers but all are intended simply "as tools to help connect with your patients, your colleagues, yourself".

MDDUS CEO Chris Kenny said: "MDDUS are delighted to provide support for a new edition of Tools of the Trade, a resource for doctors to draw on in both the quiet and thoughtful moments of your career and perhaps at its most challenging times as well."


Adam, There Are Animals

Chloe Morrish

There is a small fox
slipping through the fabric of morning,
still coated in a layer of grey dusk

and carefully placing his paws
between what’s left of night
in the garden.

There is a monkey,
a stained toy, in your hand
when you arrive at the hospital,

which none of the fussing people
had noticed
and you had clung to.

There are wild-eyed soldiers' horses,
charging at us from the jigsaw pieces
in the waiting room

where we try to sleep
on the table and chairs
and pretend we’re not waiting.

There are several pigeons
on the window ledge, shuffling about
before the steel chimneys and pinking sky

and a seagull’s bark
in the deflated quiet
just after you die.

There is an overfed cat
in the arms of a nurse who smokes
by the automatic doors.

and there are baby rabbits
eating the grass verges
of the hospital car park.

There is our dog
at the door, confused
when we get home without you.

From Tools of the Trade: Poems for New Doctors which is available for sale from the Scottish Poetry Library’s online shop at

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Read more from this issue of FYi

FYi is published twice a year and distributed to MDDUS members in Foundation Year 1 and Foundation Year 2 training programmes and final year medical students throughout the UK. It provides a mix of articles on risk, medico-legal and regulatory matters as well as general features and profiles of interest to trainee doctors. Browse all current and back issues below.
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