THEY work notoriously long hours and their jobs are amongst the most stressful in their chosen profession.

But now junior doctors are being prescribed poetry to help them cope with the stress of their frontline duties.

The medical profession is gifting a book of poems, titled Tools of the Trade, to all doctors graduating in Scotland.

It is a collection of poems – some written by doctors – that speak to the experience of being a junior medic with themes such as tiredness, compassion and worry, and breaking bad or good news.

At a time when both junior doctors and general practitioners face increasing challenges, the book is being published by The Scottish Poetry Library and Polygon, and has the support of the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland.

Dr Lesley Morrison, who edited the book along with Dr John Gillies, Samuel Tongue and Rev Ali Newell, said: “In order to look after patients, we need to look after and be kind to ourselves.”

The editors offer the poems, some of them written by doctors including Dannie Abse, Rafael Campo, Glenn Colquhoun, and Martin MacIntyre, as “tools to help connect with your patients, your colleagues, yourself”.

Poetry was a comfort and inspiration for Dr Morrison, now a university tutor, when she practised as a GP, and gave her the idea for poetry aimed at doctors.

She took it to the Scottish Poetry Library and the first edition was published in 2014, and it is now updated with new poems for the next generation of doctors going into hospitals and general practice.

“Robert Burns’ poetry helped me hugely – the way he talks about humanity and being able to see the good in everyone, that is what being a GP is all about,” she said.

“I’ve always been interested in how the arts and humanities can improve the experience of being a doctor, and transform the work we do for patients,” she said.

“Poetry gives you a wider perception of people’s lives and helps you be a better doctor.

“It’s a great privilege to be a doctor and be allowed intimate access to people’s lives, but it can be overwhelming at times.

“I hope this book will offer support to new doctors after a night of mayhem when they don’t know what to do.

“When they feel terrible, they can reach for this book and find a poem that makes them feel better.”

The poems are divided into five sections to help new doctors in different situations: Looking after Yourself; Looking after Others; Beginnings; Being with Illness; Endings.

Doctor and writer Gavin Francis, who wrote the introduction to the collection, said: “John Keats, who trained as a doctor, counselled that the best poetry should strike you as ‘a wording of your own highest thoughts’.

“Whether you hated poetry at school or keep volumes by your bedside, you’ll find something here to appreciate now and in the years to come. From Kathleen Jamie’s revelation of the beauty and power of ultrasound, to Cynthia Huntington’s account of being on the other side of the clinic desk; from Dannie Abse’s revelations with a stethoscope, to Bob Hicock’s elegiac account of dementia, there are wonders in these pages.”

Dr Carey Lunan, chair of RCGP Scotland, commented: “Tools of the Trade, as a pocket companion, can offer solace and perspective at times of stress to busy doctors, and serve as a reminder that human relationships underpin everything we do. Remain curious and seek out the story – our patients’ – and our own.”

Chris Kenny, chief executive of MDDUS, said: “What these poems show is that not everything is a matter of hard-edged scientific evidence or financial calculation.

“It’s not all a matter of intellect, observation, diagnostic or manual skills.

“Imagination, empathy and insight into your own position can be just as important – and sometimes even more so when it comes to building trust and rapport, to communicating the best and worst of news and guiding and sharing decision-making.

“We are delighted to provide support for this new edition of poems for new doctors. It is a resource for doctors to draw on in both the quiet and thoughtful moments of their career and perhaps at its most challenging times as well.”

The Scottish Poetry Library’s Director, Asif Khan said: “Poetry is an ideal medium for helping to build one’s resilience and emotional intelligence.

“Our pocket-sized collections presented to graduating doctors and teachers have proved to be popular with recipients and we continue to seek new ways of engaging with professional sectors across Scotland on creative words for wellbeing.”

The poems are read out in a St Andrews University project that can be seen here: