When Florence “SeeSee” Rigney was a child, she earned a nickname — a reference to her enthusiasm and love of learning — that has stuck with her the rest of her life. The 90-year-old still reflects both these traits — which is probably why SeeSee is the country’s oldest nurse.
And she’s stayed at Tacoma General Hospital almost her entire career, which began when she graduated from nursing school in 1946, Today reported. In seven decades, the oldest nurse has never gone off duty — taking off only five months when she turned 67 to retire.
“Then I came back, and here I am.”
The country’s oldest nurse is still on shift two days a week, setting up supplies and equipment, but not assisting patients in the operating room, Mashable added. Co-worker Sheri Morris — who contacted the governor of Washington to help honor SeeSee for her 90th birthday — said she is indispensable.
“She runs circles around all of us. She’s a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, and we absolutely love her.”
Being a nurse was Rigney’s childhood dream. Since graduating from nursing school, she’s worked all over the country, but always returned to the hospital where she got her start.
“Just imagine all the changes SeeSee has seen in her life since she graduated from high school — in 1943,” said hospital CEO Bill Roberston, according to ABC 11. “Listening to some of the details of the experiences she has had over the course of a wonderful life is inspiring.”
And her co-workers decided to express their gratitude and amazement with Florence’s distinction as the oldest nurse in the U.S. with a birthday surprise last week. SeeSee actually took her birthday off, so they arranged for a bit of a celebration the day before.
“We had to do something,” Morris said. “She’d had over six decades of service at the hospital. How could we not honor that?”
All the important people attended — administrators, her children and co-workers. She wore a pink sash and tiara for the occasion, and got a nice bouquet of flowers.
The country’s oldest nurse — still dressed in her scrubs and not betraying her 90 years — was surprised and honored by the attention.
“You are all wonderful. I know I’m a pain in the you-know-what! I can’t believe it. 90 years ago, I came into this world. And here I am.”
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]