Pharmacy Leadership Award 2024: Allison Nourse

Updated on May 31, 2024 (Originally posted on May 15, 2024) The Tablet

Allison Nourse
Pharmacy Leadership Award
Director, Health Systems Projects, Shoppers Drug Mart
Vancouver, B.C.

Making change happen.

For pharmacist Allison Nourse, driving change for better health care is the key behind her concept of leadership in pharmacy. It’s a notion that has helped define her career.

Nourse has demonstrated a unique trajectory in her career, exhibiting her commitment to leadership and innovation in the pharmacy sector. She has tackled numerous unconventional pharmacist roles during her career. Roles where strategy, change management, and working to advance the profession have always been her focus.

Nourse currently serves as Director, Health Systems Projects at Shoppers Drug Mart. In this role, she collaborates with universities, provincial health systems and foundations across Canada, advancing research and models of care that drive changes to both the health system and pharmacy practice. The goal — delivering more collaborative and accessible care to Canadians. 

After graduating in 2003, as many of her colleagues found positions in hospital or community pharmacy, Nourse embarked on a different path as a practice consultant. While working directly with clients, her role also involved dividing her time among eight community pharmacies in B.C.’s Interior.

It was a mix of providing direct client care for chronic disease prevention and management, plus creating and delivering community health seminars. She also collaborated with other health care providers and trained and supported other pharmacists to provide the services. Understanding the unmet needs of the community and the clients served were key aspects of the role.

“I worked with each of the owners to determine what their community needed and what services their pharmacy could offer,” Nourse said. 

Services ranged from bone density scanning and cholesterol testing to asthma, diabetes, sleep, pain, weight management, menopause, smoking cessation, and overall wellness. She also planned how best to create awareness, from newspaper articles to letters to physicians and other health care professionals in the area. In 2005, Nourse returned to school and completed an Industrial Residency at the University of Toronto. Here, she experienced several different avenues of the pharmacy industry, including new product development, health economics, market access and marketing. 

With each new position that followed, Nourse’s approach was solving the challenge presented by her employer. In one position, she led a team of software developers to enhance functionality for the in-house pharmacy dispensary software, and create plans for integrating electronic health records. In another position, she managed the training, quality assurance and interprofessional collaboration of more than 70 pharmacists who provided overnight virtual medication information services across B.C. and Alberta in collaboration with the Nurse Line, now known as 8-1-1. Another role led her into warehouse logistics and supply chain management, operations, and supporting new pharmacy openings.

Allison Nourse

Allison Nourse, Director, Health Systems Projects at Shoppers Drug Mart, has had a career that focused on pharmacy leadership roles.

As the scale of Nourse’s work grew, her responsibilities eventually spanned the development and implementation of strategies for hundreds of pharmacies across the country. During this time, she also served in positions on approximately a dozen committees and boards of directors, including six years as a board member of the B.C. Pharmacy Association, serving as President of the board from 2015 to 2016.  

“I believe we have to give back to the profession if it is to keep pace with the evolving needs of society and to continue being a desirable and rewarding place to work,” she said.

“As a leader, I know that the choices I make will affect thousands of pharmacists, their teams, their clients, and the system as a whole,” Nourse said. “When you make a change there is always a ripple effect. You have to understand the pros and cons and determine if the benefits of the change outweigh the risks. Why are we doing this and what is the outcome we are looking for? When I design and roll out a new service, I always have the end users in mind.” 

In recent years, Nourse returned to her alma mater as Assistant Director of the Pharmacists Clinic at the University of B.C. where she was responsible for the operations of the clinic, collaboration with external partners and mentoring several students. When the opportunity arose to collaborate with universities and health systems across Canada, Nourse decided to make the move to Shoppers Drug Mart. 

“My new role enables me to bring together my experiences and knowledge in a magnitude of ways,” said Nourse. 

"The impact that my work has on people and the health care systems has always been important to me, particularly for the clients we serve, by making sure that we’re doing what is right for them.” 

One of Nourse’s current projects includes supporting the profession to incorporate cultural safety and humility into community pharmacy. She describes her leadership approach as one of compassion and care, being open and adaptable, and encouraging others to approach her and to share their thoughts. 

“I have seen different styles of leadership in my career,” she said. “I try to apply the leadership style that supported me the most in my career growth while acknowledging that everyone has a different learning style and method of communication.”

Nourse is also a firm believer in mentorship and supporting the growth of future leaders. 

“You can’t have good leaders unless you help support others in the profession and provide opportunities for growth and development,” she said.  

Overall, Nourse’s progressive mindset and her career path reflect her dedication to leadership, innovation, and excellence in pharmacy practice. Her multifaceted experiences across different sectors of the industry have equipped her with a unique skill set and perspective, positioning her as a trailblazer in the field.

“It was a big choice to move into a corporate setting, but I know the programs and resources I create directly affect client care through supporting and enabling other pharmacists,” she said.

And, for up-and-coming leaders, she has this to say: 

“What can students do if they want a career path like this? Don’t be afraid to try something new and venture out of the city. Some of my best experiences were working in small towns. Get involved in the profession, volunteer at events and take any chance you can get to practice the new skills you learn. Don’t accept the status quo, find places to work where managers embrace practice change and collaboration.” 

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