Oldest working nurse in U.S. finally retires, at 96

Florence “SeeSee” Rigney began her nursing career in 1943.She was 18, and penicillin was just making its way into mainstream health care.Now she's 96, and she's decided to retire.She tried to retire 30 years ago, but she lasted only six months before she went back.“I don’t like to sit around — I’ve always got to have something to do. That’s my nature,” she told a local news station

When Florence ‘SeeSee’ Rigney began her career, penicillin had just found its way into health care

When Florence “SeeSee” Rigney began her career as an operating room nurse, she was 18 and penicillin had just found its way into health care.

That was 1943, and she likely never thought she’d spend the next 70 years taking care of people. It wasn’t 70 consecutive years — she retired for six whole months more than 30 years ago. She also took small breaks to care for her two children and other family members.

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“I don’t like to sit around — I’ve always got to have something to do. That’s my nature,” Rigney told KING-TV. “I don’t know exactly what made me want to become a nurse, but it was something that I always wanted to do. I love to interact with patients and give them the help that I can.”

Laureen Driscoll, president of MultiCare Tacoma General and Allenmore hospitals, told KING-TV that Rigney has never been the type of person who slows down.

“Some of her colleagues joked that they had to sprint to keep up with her,” Driscoll said. “She’s continued to be a dedicated nurse and an incredible resource to her colleagues and community. It’s humbling to stop and think about the thousands and thousands of lives she’s cared for.”

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But Rigney is 96 now, and she’s retiring for real this time.

The biggest change she’s seen has been how much time patients have been given to recover from surgery, she told the news station. When she began her career, you could stay for 10 days or longer; now it’s a couple of days.

Rigney has advice for other nurses: “Don’t ever think that you know it all. I kind of did that when I was in the operating room, and you have to always be open. You never stop learning.”

To honor Rigney, MultiCare Health System is establishing a scholarship in her name called the SeeSee Rigney Nursing Endowed Scholarship Fund. The scholarships will go to MultiCare nurses and employees interested in pursuing nursing for continued learning and development, KING-TV reported.

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