Earlier this year registered nurse Florence “See See” Rigney celebrated her 94th birthday while on shift at the Tacoma General Hospital in Washington. While she’s probably the oldest working nurse in the world, colleagues say that they sometimes struggle to keep up with her.
Still working after 70 years
Rigney started working at Tacoma General Hospital after she graduated from their nursing program in 1946. And she’s still working there, two days a week, more than 70 years later. In the past 15 years, she’s only taken one day of sick leave.
For most of her career, Rigney worked in surgery and these days she’s responsible for setting up the operating theatre and prepping patients for surgery. “I have something to get up for in the morning,” she said. “And I do like to be able to interact with patients and give them what comfort and what help I can.”
Rigney explained that she enjoys being with her hospital family. Working two days a week keeps her busy and her brain stimulated.
Changes in nursing
According to Rigney learning is something that never stops in nursing. She also emphasized that new nurses should never be overconfident in their knowledge, but be aware that they still had a lot to learn.
She observed that one of the biggest changes she’s seen, due to the advances in medicine and technology, is in the length of patient stays. When she first started nursing patients usually stayed in the hospital for 7-10 days after surgery. Today they are often discharged on the same day, even after fairly extensive interventions.
Rigley has certainly kept up with all the changes in nursing and modern technology. “I’ve had to learn a computer” she joked, and also reported that her Fitbit regularly clocks her walking 2-3 miles on the days she works. Being active is what she believes has kept her going.