Imágenes de páginas



patronage to them if they separate from their employers unless there be legal ties to prevent it. Carelessness in compounding, or disreputable conduct on the part of an assistant, will severely injure the practitioner, who is responsible for his skill and conduct.

In cities the pure physician or surgeon does not require assistants, and as the chemist encroaches so much on the business of the general practitioner, the latter is forced to keep a retail shop, and his assistants will therefore require to study more carefully the prices in the monthly drug-list than the writings of Watson, Fergusson, Quain, or Beale.

It is the general practitioner attending poor-law and club patients in the rural districts who requires assistants for compounding, book-keeping, and attendance in the surgery while he is absent. Such assistants would be best qualified by the Apothecaries' or Pharmaceutical Societies, but no visiting assistant should ever be engaged unless he possesses a surgical diploma. The present demand may be judged of by an advertisement a few days ago from a medical agent, “ To assistants; wanted twelve qualified, and twenty unqualified." Dispensing assistants are becoming less useful, as now they are seldom apprenticed, but often handle drugs for the first time when engaged, their time having been up to that spent in the lecture room or hospital wards. We would not wish to see the apprentice of fifty years ago revived, whose duties included the sweeping of the surgery, lighting the fire, and assisting the groom; but to a certainty the apprenticeship system reared a more useful class of assistants. The most junior assistant is usually a lad whose parents wish to test his liking for the profession (and it must be confessed they try no very encouraging process), or one whose prospects are not bright, and who, in exchange for board, gives his services. Yet in this position, as well as in others of much greater difficulty, the lad who resolves to succeed will



do so, and will make every drug and every living thing around subserve for the increase of his knowledge.

Very few Englishmen with qualifications seek assistantships, for having usually command of money they are able to buy a practice at once; but as the experience gained as an assistant is most valuable in deciding on and afterwards conducting a practice, the habit is unwise. Many of the assistants who seek places are therefore Irish and Scotch, and as they have not compounded, or at best only done so in hospital, they are not at once available for such duties. It must be confessed also that gentlemen from these parts of the United Kingdom are not looked on with as much consideration as Englishmen. They often think that they are to attend the patients, not inquiring who is to do the drudgery in the surgery.

As to the legal relations of practitioner and assistant, they are controlled by the law of master and servant in almost every point. There are usually agreements that the assistant shall not practise on his own account within ten miles of his late employer's place for ten yearsmuch greater distances or periods would be held in courts of law to be restraints of trade.” Immediate dismissal can be enforced for incompetency or improper conduct.

Mr. Langley, from whose " Via Medica” much of the information on the previous page is derived, shows that an assistant cannot force his employer to give him a testimonial (but surely no reasonable man would refuse to do so if the duties had been satisfactorily performed), and a master can be held responsible for any mistakes which bis late assistant makes if another employer engage him on the faith of a testimonial which can be shown to be fallacious.

The rate of remuneration for a qualified assistant is, in addition to board, about 260 a year, which may be gradually increased as the services become valuable.



72 Cases occasionally occur in which an assistant is taken into partnership, or succeeds to the practice by the death of his employer—a yearly consideration being usually agreed on for the surviving relatives.

Mr. Langley describes the duties of the “ dispensing assistant” as follows : “At the commencement of the day the cleanliness and order of the 'surgery should be looked to, and the servant or office lad should be employed to rectify any neglect. A plentiful supply of clean water, proper cloths, and towels should be at hand; the counter should be studiously clean, and the assistant should see that folding papers of various sizes required have been cut and put into the drawer where they are usually kept. From time to time also he should see that there is a supply of labels, pens and ink, blotting paper, bottles of various sizes, boxes for pills and ointments, pills in mass or rolled, tinctures, essences and drugs generally. It is a good plan to look into stock once a week, say on a Monday morning." His duties also include keeping the books, “posting" them, and periodically making out the bills-a good, neat hand being indispensable. The profession has been often accused of writing illegibly; and, still worse, it is said the habit was imitated from the practice of the physicians of the seventeenth century, who wrote their prescriptions in taverns when their hands were by no means steady.

The number of visits a practitioner in England will daily pay may be judged of by the fact that the lowest number for which Smith's “ Visiting List” is issued is twenty-five. This publication is invaluable as a record of business and memorandum book.

Professorships in scientific and medical schools, and hospital appointments, which attract many to the profession, will be hereafter discussed ; and as we have now discussed the other employments which medical men may aspire to, the subject of pharmacy next claims attention.

[blocks in formation]


PHARMACY. Until James I., in the thirteenth year of his reign, granted a charter separating the “grocers” and “poticaries,” these two arts were carried on by the same person, and indeed a charter, given in the fourth year of his reign, had consolidated the employments. During the plague in London the apothecaries' earned national gratitude by remaining to minister to the dying poor when physicians (not exclusive of Sydenham, it must be regretfully acknowledged) had fled.

The Society of Apothecaries, by dint of parliamentary agitation, which arose out of an attempt by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer to tax their bottles, and during an almost lethargic condition of other bodies, obtained in 1815 the right of examining in medicine and its collateral subjects; and thus the sole power of licensing general practitioners was vested in that trading company until the Medical Act, 1858, was passed. Scotland an Apothecaries Company was never established, the College of Surgeons having had the power of licensing for the compounding of medicines. The Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians of London, however, at length awakened, and the Pharmaceutical Society meanwhile acquired the right of educating and licensing dispensing chemists, so that it was difficult to predict what would be the future of the Apothecaries Company when the Medical Act passed. The yearly lessening of its licentiates may help one to form an opinion. The Apothecaries Act, 1815, appointed searchers of shops who might destroy improper medicines, and twelve examiners to license apothecaries. Examiners might be also appointed in counties to license assistants. Any unlicensed person acting as apothecary was liable to £20 penalty, or as assistant, to £5, and could not recover charges. It does not appear that the company devoted much zeal to pharmaceutical che

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]


mistry, for the Master confessed, some years ago, before a parliamentary committee, that he had not attended to practical chemistry, not considering it part of his duty. The following instance, given by Mr. Carmichael, shows that in English towns the apothecary keeps in fact an assorted warehouse :

The following placard is copied, verbatim, from a board which the author saw suspended, during the summer of 1839, at the window of an apothecary's shop in Manchester. Such notifications exhibit so extraordinary a melange as to excite the astonishment and ridicule of foreigners, but are so common in Great Britain that their incongruity passes unheeded by all classes of Englishmen: A. B., Surgeon and Apothecary. Prescriptions and family medicines accurately compounded.

Teeth extracted at one shilling each. Women attended in labour at 2s. 6d. each. Patent medicines and perfumery. Best London pickles. Fish sauces. Bear's grease. Soda water. Ginger beer. Lemonade. Congreve matches, and Warren's blacking. I inquired of the proprietor of this heterogeneous mass if he really was, as his placard announced, a surgeon and apothecary? He candidly acknowledged that he had no right to call himself a surgeon, but stated that he was a licentiate of the Apothecaries' Company of London, and therefore legally qualified to practise medicine !"

The Pharmaceutical Society was established in 1841, and chartered in 1843. All persons who desire to be admitted must pass examinations in chemistry, pharmacy, materia medica, and botany, as well as giving practical evidence of skill in dispensing. The Pharmacy Act makes it penal for any one to assume the title of pharmaceutical chemist without being a member of this society, but it ought to be amended so as to prevent compounding in any way without this qualification.

There are Boards of Examiners in London and

« AnteriorContinuar »