The first pharmacies, or drugstores, can date all the way back to the Middle Ages in Baghdad. This is not to say that chemical compounds from plants were not used prior to this in ancient times. But with the development and recording of botanical studies and chemistry in the Islamic world of the Middle Ages, the time had become ripe for the proper classification and subsequent merchandising of medicine for everyday commercial use. Europe trailed behind the Middle Eastern world for several centuries until drugstores began springing up across the continent in the 13th century.
Today, drugstores are everywhere, from strip-malls to airports, from bustling urban centres to small-town general stores. And they are no longer limited to just prescription medicine, but one can find all sorts of over-the-counter drugs, not to mention toiletries, cleaning products, greeting cards and food. But this isn't the only type of pharmacy to endure since Medieval times. Pharmacies today can be divided into two categories: community and institutional.
This is the case where pharmacists as healthcare professionals simultaneously act as retailers, as in shop-workers. The basic design of one of these pharmacies is a store divided into two sections, a general store area where consumers can shop freely as in any supermarket, and a back area which acts as a dispensary. This restricted area houses the prescribed medications and it is where pharmacists help customers understand the proper usage of their prescriptions.
This type of pharmacy is rightly named because it is truly integrated into the community, with as much of an emphasis on drug preparation as customer relations. Undertaking pharmacy technician training prepares one equally for both aspects of the job as these qualities must come together to provide the best service for the community.
We are much less familiar with institutional pharmacies as opposed to community ones. This is mostly because as regular, everyday consumers, we are well-provided for by our community drugstores. Institutional pharmacies normally handle the pharmaceutical and medicinal needs of other industries in healthcare that aren't based on a single customer relationship. Examples of institutions these pharmacies deal with are hospitals, nursing homes and even military facilities. Sometimes institutional pharmacies are located on the site of these other institutions. Otherwise, they may have their own facilities and utilize regular courier and delivery services to distribute medication.
Along with the massive production and distribution of medicine, institutional pharmacies can also apply statistical analysis. This means that they keep constant records of the efficacy of certain medicines, its frequency of usage, its consumptive demographics, as well as other resource, manufacturing and cost considerations. This information is then shared and integrated with other healthcare specialists in a constant effort to improve the quality, efficiency and availability of prescription drugs. Not only can hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturers benefit from this information, but schools of Health Science can as well.
Becoming a pharmacist gives one many options for the exact nature of work and work environment. Whether one is interested in working with a community or working at an institutional level, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will always serve a valuable role to society.