By the time Vivian Low, MPH, RN-BC, FPCNA, was 8 years old, she knew she wanted to be a nurse, largely because of her exposure to a student nurse she got to know when she was a little girl. Not only was she impressed by the woman’s nursing uniform, complete with a cape and hat, but Vivian read all the Sue Barton nurse novels and called Florence Nightingale her hero. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Vivian put herself through Nursing School at the University of San Francisco and received a public health loan that forgave a year of tuition for every year she worked in an impoverished, high-need area. After three years at Los Angeles County General Hospital working in the pulmonary intensive care unit, she was debt-free. Vivian then went on to receive her master’s degree in public health from San Jose State University, focusing on community health education.
She received the Program Founding Coordinator Recognition of Excellence Award for the De Anza College cardiac rehabilitation program she created in partnership with the exercise physiology lab and its medical director – a program that was well ahead of its time and operated for 15 years. Fast-forward several years, and Vivian continues to build on that experience, passion and knowledge; developing innovative new programs at El Camino Health during her 17 years as Manager of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Wellness Center and twelve years as Chair of Nursing Research Council.
Vivian’s passion for coordinating community resources, mentoring nurses and improving patient care and services in the hospital and throughout the community seems limitless. For example, she successfully launched the Harmonica for Health program for COPD patients in support of the Better Breathers Club. The Harmonica Program is an innovative approach that encourages patients to practice vital breathing exercises, learn a new skill (playing the harmonica) and enjoy the social aspect of a group learning environment. Vivian’s other wellness initiatives include a Laughter Yoga program for stress reduction, a women’s heart support group, and a collaboration with the YMCA to support graduates of the wellness program. She also recently arranged for the hospital dietitian to receive training in plant-based dietary courses to improve the quality of service provided to all heart patients.
Under her leadership, both the cardiac and pulmonary programs received national certification through the American Association of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, the only program in the greater South Bay region to receive this dual certification. Since 1998, she has led an American Heart Walk team and raised over $62,000 for research. Vivian has also managed nearly $500,000 of funding on behalf of the nursing division from various foundations to support nursing research and ensure evidence-based practice implementation throughout the organization.
The American Nursing Credentialing Center awarded El Camino Hospital the designation of Magnet Nursing Excellence in 2005, making it the first San Francisco Bay Area hospital to receive such distinction. The hospital received its fourth magnet designation in 2021. Vivian serves on the Magnet Committee with specific focus on the areas of nursing, new knowledge, innovation, improvements and nursing empirical outcomes. She is a Site Coordinator for the Center for Nursing Research & Innovation Research Days Program, University of California San Francisco School of Nursing through 2016. She was appointed to the national Steering Council for the Improvement Science Research Network (ISRN) at the University of Texas Health Science Center, since its inception. She received the California State Society of Cardiac Rehabilitation Award of Excellence and was awarded Fellows status from the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurse’s Association (PCNA) for her work in cardiovascular disease prevention and management.
To countless patients, Vivian is a teacher whose wellness programs have helped them better care for themselves and enjoy a higher quality of life. To the nursing team at El Camino Health, she is a valued mentor and advocate. To all of us, Vivian Low is a healthcare hero.
Vivian was recognized as one of the 2017 Silicon Valley Business Journal Excellence in Healthcare Awardees for her leadership and dedication.
This article was updated in May 2021.