Florence “SeeSee” Rigney is the oldest registered nurse working in the United States. SeeSee began her nursing career in 1946 during the post-World War II era, a time when female nurses were overworked and underpaid. Today, at 92 years old, SeeSee still enjoys taking care of patients at Tacoma General Hospital in Washington state. Having been a part of the nursing profession for over since 1946, SeeSee tells everybody she works with that she became a nurse because she feels blessed to be able to enjoy taking care of others.
Nursing Has Changed Dramatically Since the Beginning of SeeSee’s Career
From the late 1940s to the 2010s, technology has revolutionized the world of medicine. During the early days of SeeSee’s nursing career, the daily tasks of a nurse were all performed manually with the limited amount of resources that were available. Due to the lack of many technological innovations used in the medical industry today, nurses during that time cared for their patients in a way that required a highly personal level of dedication. Back then, the treatment process relied more heavily on a nurse’s healing intuition.
Having experienced the world of nursing under more “analog” circumstances helped SeeSee to realize what it means to be a dedicated nurse all the way through today’s digital age. SeeSee even went the extra mile to keep up with the demands of her profession and learned how to operate a computer when she was 80 years old.
A 90th Birthday Surprise: The Celebration of SeeSee’s Nursing Career
On May 7, 2015, the day before her 90th birthday, SeeSee entered the hospital to begin her normal shift routine when she was wonderfully surprised by all of her fellow nurses. Greeted with applause, a smile lit up SeeSee’s face as another nurse presented her with a bright pink birthday sash and tiara. Everybody clapped and shouted “Happy Birthday!” as SeeSee was handed a beautiful bouquet of colorful birthday flowers. The sweet gesture of all of her compassionate co-workers drove SeeSee to joyful tears.
The surprise continued when SeeSee was read a letter from the Washington state governor, formally recognizing her as the nation’s oldest working registered nurse. The letter read,
“Florence ‘SeeSee’ Rigney turns 90 years young tomorrow, and still runs circles around colleagues half her age. After more than six decades of service as an operating room nurse, SeeSee has witnessed incredible advances in technology and has helped countless patients. She still works two days a week at Tacoma General setting up rooms and keeping everyone else in line. I applaud SeeSee for her selflessness and long-standing commitment to excellence…her continued engagement in nursing is a testament to her unceasing energy and compassion for those in need.”
SeeSee thanked everyone at the hospital by giving big hugs and saying, “I can’t believe that 90 years ago I came into this world and here I am. Thank you all, you are all wonderful.”
Looking back on her lifetime of nursing, SeeSee said she would love to stay at the hospital but that she is considering retirement in the near future. SeeSee feels blessed to have lived such a long life helping so many people. She shared that once she officially retires from nursing, she plans to pursue her lifelong dream of traveling the world.
To read more about lifetime careers in nursing, visit our article, “Passion after a lifelong career in nursing.”