( Originally Published Early 1900's )
From earliest days, man has looked to Nature to supply him with the means of curing his ailments. The curative and healing properties of certain plants, roots, herbs and barks were discovered long ago, and these were made into crude potions and brews, and thus utilized in cases of illness. Since those days, the compounding of medicinal products has developed to a remarkable degree. Patient scientific research in the laboratory has replaced the guesswork of former times, and has resulted in the discovery of medicinal properties in many plant products, of curative qualities in animal serums and of methods of producing synthetically numerous curative agents. The medical preparations of today are also dispensed with a much greater degree of skill than ever before; they are more refined and palatable, and also more accurately compounded than formerly.
The doctor prescribing medicines for his patients could not possibly find the time to put these medicines together himself. This work is left to the prescription pharmacist in the pharmacy or "drug store." Upon receiving the physician's prescription, the pharmacist scrupulously follows it, producing the required preparation. Most pharmacists also dispense certain preparations, such as healing lotions and ointments, and remedies for minor ills, according to their own formulas.
Certain natural qualifications of the utmost importance must be possessed by everyone who wishes to practice pharmacy. One of the first and most necessary of these is accuracy. The pharmacist's work entails the greatest responsibility. He deals constantly with dangerous drugs and powerful poisons. The least carelessness, the slightest mistake, is liable to have fatal results. The man who cannot follow directions exactly has no right to enter upon the practice of pharmacy.
Cleanliness is another prime requisite. Unsanitary conditions in the prescription room refute the entire work of the pharmacist.
The drugs used must be absolutely pure, the implements employed in compounding them must be kept sterile and the pharmacist should be as scrupulously clean as the doctor.
The pharmacist must also be a man of good character and strong will. He handles strong narcotics and liquors in his daily work, and must be able to withstand whatever temptation these products may offer him.
Nowadays the typical drug store is not simply a pharmacy, devoted to the compounding and dispensing of drugs and medicines, but in most cases a general store on a small scale. All sorts of goods are carried in stock and, in order to make his business a successful one, the druggist must have not a little business acumen and must possess the qualities of a good salesman.
In order to study to become a pharmacist, a boy should be a high school graduate, although less than four years high school work may be accepted by some pharmacy schools. Courses in schools of pharmacy usually take from two to four years, and vary in cost from nothing (at state universities) to about $200 a year. In many schools both day and evening courses are given. The graduate of a college of pharmacy is required to pass an examination given by the State Board of Pharmacy, before he receives his license to practice. In some cases, a certain period of practical apprenticeship in a drug store is required before the pharmacist's license is granted.
The instruction in schools of pharmacy includes such subjects as chemistry, botany, materia medica and pharmacy, and allied subjects like microscopy, analysis of foods, medicines, secretions and excretions of the human system, and bacteriology. A large amount of laboratory work is usually provided. More specific information as to courses, entrance requirements and fees may be obtained by writing to the schools.
Usually the student at a school of pharmacy spends some of his spare time or vacation periods working as a clerk in a drug store. Such work gives him practical experience in the business as well as the professional side of his vocation. He becomes acquainted with some of the problems facing the proprietor of a drug store, and gains a certain foundation of business knowledge which will stand him in good stead when he is ready to go into business for himself. The student clerk is seldom paid more than $15 a week, but he gains much valuable experience from his work.
Few young men have sufficient capital to become the owners of drug stores immediately upon being licensed as pharmacists. They therefore enter the employ of an established druggist as clerk or assistant, and in this position make from about $100 a month up. In the course of a number of years most young druggists have accumulated enough money to buy either a partnership in the store in which they have been working, or a business of their own. It is impossible to say what financial returns may be expected from a drug store. The location of the store, the quality of the service rendered, the reputation of the pharmacist among physicians and other people, the business ability of the druggist are all-important factors in determining the income which the drug store will yield.
The work of the druggist is not particularly difficult, but it is confining, and the hours are, in many cases, long. The pharmacist is usually looked up to and respected in his community, and fills a very important position in it. His work contributes to the maintenance of health, and is therefore a valuable form of public service.
The hospital pharmacist is the professional compounder and dispenser of drugs and medicines in the hospital. The commercial element is entirely lacking in his work. The hospital pharmacist's work is pleasant and allows him a certain degree of independence. The demand for workers in this field is an active one, and the salaries are quite satisfactory.
Those young men who find that their chief interest in pharmacy lies in the laboratory work may prefer to work as pharmaceutical chemists, drug analysts or research pharmacists in medical manufacturing houses. For this type of work, training in pharmaceutical chemistry is essential. A thorough knowledge of the chemistry of medicinal substances, of their origin, dispensing and effects and of the utilization of the products evolved in other branches of chemistry for pharmaceutical purposes should be part of the equipment of the pharmacist who specializes in research and analysis. In the manufacturing of drugs and medicines, expert pharmacists are put in charge of the various departments, and have a chance to develop their knowledge in their own particular fields of work.
In the research laboratory and analysis department of manufactories, drugs and all sorts of medicinal products are subjected to scientific examination, and their specific curative properties isolated. The work of reproducing such properties by synthetic means is also carried on in the laboratory.
The pharmaceutical chemist renders crude products capable of being used for medicinal purposes, through processes of cleaning, purification, refining and mixture. Most of the drugs used by prescription pharmacists are brought by them, after the drugs have been already prepared for immediate use by the pharmaceutical chemist.
Laboratory work is likely to be of special interest to the man who views pharmacy from the professional rather than the commercial angle. It is work which requires a studious nature and a scientific turn of mind, and the ability to concentrate energies and efforts upon the solution of whatever problem is being investigated. The work is intensely interesting to the man who has the progress of the art of healing at heart, and who has the ability to follow out original lines of investigation. Many industries employ pharmaceutical chemists in an effort to improve their processes of manufacture, and the demand for well-qualified men is steady. The salaries usually range from about $2,000 a year upward, and for men of expert knowledge and ability the opportunities in this branch of pharmacy are almost unlimited.
The pharmacist's services to the community are very important. Without his help, the physician would be unable to proceed with his work, and the control of illness would be much less advanced than it actually is. He supplies a decided want, and finds satisfaction in the realization of the significance of his work.
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"Pharmacy as a Profession," Bull. of the State University of Iowa, New Series No. 171, The University, Iowa City, Iowa, 1919.
RUDDIMAN, EDSEL ALEXANDER: "Whys In Pharmacy," John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1917.
SNOW, C. M.: "Essentials of Pharmacy," C. V. Mosby Co., St. Louis, 1919. TAYLOR, F. O.: "Pharmaceutical Chemist and the Scope of His Work,"
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