I realise that present-day requirements for pharmacy education may be very different from those in my day at the end of the Second World War and in the 1950s, but, having read comments on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s proposal to integrate practical placements throughout a five-year pharmacy degree, I think some general principles might apply.
I took a three-year indentured apprenticeship in a branch of Boots, followed by ‘Part 1’, involving biology, chemistry and physics, and then ‘Part 2’, which included pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacognosy, forensic studies and physiology.
Boots ran a correspondence course that alternated theory and practical work, but I did very little actual work in the dispensary; consequently, I was very behind with hands-on abilities. In 1948, I started national service in the Royal Army Medical Corps and, although I failed my finals, I was given training in hospital to become a sergeant dispenser with the same standing as a qualified pharmacist.
Having responsibility for running my own dispensary was exactly what I needed and following a return to civilian life, and taking a weekly refresher course for a year, I passed my exams first time.
Of course, requirements differ between hospital, industry and community pharmacy settings, but it seems to me that nothing beats actual practical experience, as my wife, a nurse, says about her training in a ward environment.
RW Selfe, member, Royal Pharmaceutical Society