Vicki Goicovich, volunteer extraordinaire

ER nurse extends compassion from the hospital to the community

EXTRAORDINARY NURSE Vicki Goicovich was recently honored by Kaiser Permanente. Submitted photo

Vicki Goicovich was 21 and a communications major living in Los Angeles with her sights set on broadcast radio when she received the call that changed everything. Her mother, Tamiyo Mano, was diagnosed with cancer. 

Goicovich immediately left L.A. and returned home to Watsonville to be with her. The round-the-clock care she provided her mother exposed Goicovich to many facets of the medical field.

“The compassion and the kindness that the nurses showed towards myself and my mother kind of drew me,” Goicovich said. “After she (my mother) passed, I decided to go into nursing.”

For 25 years Goicovich has continued her commitment to the medical field in her role as Emergency Room nurse for Kaiser Permanente in San Jose. She believes it was her calling all along.

“I absolutely love my job. I love my patients, I love the ER,” Goicovich said. “The family that you develop within the organization, your co-workers, and even the new hires and the transitional nurses…you build bonds with all those.”

Her compassion for the job extends not only to her patients and co-workers, but to the patients’ families as well.

“Just understanding what people are going through during this difficult time and respecting where they’re coming from, that’s very important to me,” Goicovich said. “Including the family members and making sure that their questions are answered, and that they have a plan, and reassuring them that at this moment this is the best thing for their loved one. There’s a lot of chaos going on at that time, but that’s always helpful, I feel.”

Each year Kaiser Permanente acknowledges those individuals who go above and beyond—in their work and in their lives. This year’s “Celebrating Extraordinary Nurses” event included Goicovich, as she was one of 14 Northern California nurses who were honored. Goicovich received the Extraordinary Nurse-Emergency Department award which was presented to her on Nov. 6 at a rooftop ceremony at San Jose Kaiser Permanente. 

“Out of 26,000 Northern California nurses I was awarded the emergency room nurse award,” Goicovich said, with a smile.

Henry Fahrner, her manager, was one of several members of her Kaiser Permanente team to nominate Goicovich. In his nomination he wrote, “She embodies the words ‘extraordinary’ and ‘kindness.’ Each year she coordinates donations of 200 turkeys from Kaiser Permanente employees to St. Joseph’s Family Center. At Christmas, Vicki organizes a toy drive for over 1000 families.”   

For Goicovich, volunteering has always been a part of her life and began with the American Cancer Society. 

“That kind of just started my volunteering aspect and getting more involved and helping in communities,” she said.

That commitment to her community has never faltered. Since 2011 Goicovich has been a major supporter of St. Joseph’s Family Center (SJFC). That year, when David Cox, executive director of SJFC, was notified that the Toys for Tots organization (the major provider of the donated toys for SJFC) was discontinuing its service to the South County area, Goicovich was his first call.

“What started out as getting a few toys for us has blossomed into something so much better,” Cox said.

Goicovich jumped right in recruiting students from St. Mary’s elementary school to help her. The toy drive was a success. 

“It was giving them, (the children), that opportunity and then seeing how important it is to work within our community and help each other out,” Goicovich said. 

“Vicki took a large portion of the holiday sharing program under her wing and relieved our staff from the arduous task of securing toys and volunteers,” Cox said. “She coordinated the community effort from many different facets, engaging new supporters and increasing our visibility. Volunteers have been the lifeblood of our agency since our inception—and Vicki Goicovich is an exemplary model of volunteerism.”

This year due to Covid-19, SJFC has had to cancel the annual toy giveaway. 

“We will not be able to distribute toys this year. We are heartbroken at this realization, but for the safety of all, we have had to make this hard decision,” Vicky Martin, Director of Community Engagement at SJFC, said, adding, donations of gift cards are welcome in lieu of toy donations. 

SJFC will distribute food boxes on Monday, Dec. 21 and Tuesday, Dec. 22, and they hope to add holiday-specific items to the boxes including stuffing, canned yams, gravy and turkeys. 

Of course Goicovich will take part in whatever way she can to help SJFC, as she always has. “It’s such a gratifying experience on many parts, the families that you’re helping as well as the volunteers you’re working alongside with,” she said. “And establishing those kinds of relationships within the community.”

Kimberly Ewertz
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About Kimberly Ewertz
Kimberly Ewertz is a freelance writer for South Valley magazine and Gilroy Dispatch.