Meet 94-Year-Old Nurse Florence Rigney

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Florence Rigney
Florence "SeeSee" Rigney, United States' oldest working registered nurse, turned 94. | Joshua Bessex

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.

Florence Rigney
At almost seven decades of service and counting, Rigney has inspired many of those around her. | David Douglas/NBC News

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. 

Florence Rigney
Photo by southsoundmag.com/Rachel Coward

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.

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Frieda Paton, M.Cur, RN
Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.

3 COMMENTS

  1. A salute to Ms Ridney…for keeping up with the health & still being able to work at 94…
    I worked as a SRN in University Hospital in Neonatal care

  2. What an inspiration! I have been a nurse for 30 yrs. and have never lost my heart. God bless you for all your dedication. My Aunt who is no longer living, passed at 98, who worked for registry up until the age of 78. I have the utmost respect for individuals that have this kind of drive.

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