The Association has been in existence since 1980 and is a national voluntary association committed to ensuring that the unique role qualified pharmaceutical assistants occupy within the pharmacy profession is upheld and developed.
“Pharmaceutical assistant” means a person who before coming into operation of section 4(1) of this act was competent, under section 19 of the Pharmacy Act, (Ireland) Amendment Act 1890 to transact the business of a pharmacist in his or her temporary absence” (Part 1.  2(1) of the Pharmacy act 2007).

History

The qualification of assistant to a pharmaceutical chemist came into being under Section 19 of the 1875 Act ; such qualified persons would be competent to “transact the business of a licentiate of the Pharmaceutical Society in his temporary absence”.

In the early 20th century, those wishing to become pharmaceutical chemists or assistants to pharmaceutical chemists were required to pass either Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland’s own Preliminary Exam or matriculation exam in one of a number of universities, colleges or bodies. There was an apprenticeship of four years with pharmaceutical chemist or apothecary and during this time training apprentices had to attend 3 month course.

Whilst the pathway to qualify as a pharmacist changed in 1961 with the introduction of the B.SC (Pharm) degree, the process of qualifying to become a pharmaceutical assistant remained. Student apprentices undertook an integrated 4 year learning course, comprised of a three year apprenticeship under articles of pupilage, followed by a forth year full time studies in the College of Pharmacy; then took the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland’s Examination for Assistant to Pharmaceutical Chemist.

The majority of those who qualified as pharmaceutical assistants were women, 91.75% in 1980, reflecting the social and cultural norms and educational opportunities of the 60’s and 70’s, where girls were less likely than boys to have had an opportunity to study the sciences at second level schools or to aspire to university or full time career (Hannan et al; 1983, Schooling and Sex Roles: Sex Differences in Subject Provision and Student Choice in Irish Post-Primary Schools, ESRI).

Hence, the qualification of pharmaceutical assistant cannot be viewed in the context of 21 st century educational, social and cultural norms, but must be understood and evaluated in the context of its time – where when the final examination for assistants to pharmaceutical chemists took place in 1984, just over a quarter, 510, of the 2045 pharmaceutical chemists were BSc (Pharm) graduates. (Corrigan, Fisher and Henman, 1984). Fewer probably had qualified by completing a three year university degree .The majority of pharmaceutical chemists had qualified, like pharmaceutical assistants, under the integrated learning approach – a three year apprenticeship under articles of pupilage.

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