“SeeSee” is 30 years past the usual retirement age but she still bustles up the hallways of Tacoma General Hospital’s surgical wing with tremendous energy, inspiring all those whom she’ve come across be it a patient or a colleague.
On May 8, SeeSee was surprised by her coworkers together with the hospital’s CEO, who presented her with flowers, balloons, a tiara and a sash. She even received a birthday card from Washington Governor Jay Inslee honoring her achievements and decade-long vocation.
Born in 1925, Florence “SeeSee” Rigney celebrated her 90th birthday this year. Her birthday is inline for the National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6 and culminates on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Talk about being born for the job!
SeeSee got her nickname after she kept telling a teacher, “See, see,” to show how well she knew her lessons. The teacher started calling her “SeeSee” and the name stuck.
[quote_right]SeeSee is United States’ oldest practicing nurse.[/quote_right]
SeeSee is United States’ oldest practicing nurse.
She has been working in the hospital since 1946, where she donned the stiff white uniform of a student nurse of Tacoma General School of Nursing. She graduated just after World War Two and stayed on after graduation and continued to work since.
“I love nursing,” SeeSee said during an interview. “Since I was a little girl, it was something that I always wanted to do.”
[quote_right]”I love nursing. Since I was a little girl, it has something that I always wanted to do.” [/quote_right]
SeeSee started in the OR of Tacoma General before working for a private doctor and has stints in different ORs across the country. Before her husband was deployed for the Korean War, she returned to Tacoma General.
In 1958, the couple adopted their first child and SeeSee shifted to working on an as-needed basis to fill shifts when the hospital was short-handed. When her daughter reached college and her son was in high school, she was needed at home less so she worked more.
Rigney started working full-time again after her husband died in 1977, working 10-hour shifts three days a week. She found it pleasing that her mind was occupied while being surrounded by her second family.
The hospital honored her long-running career by giving her plaques to mark her five, ten, and 15 years. When she was 67, she thought about retiring.
“I stayed retired for about five months then I came back and here I am,” she said. “I always thought I’d come back and work but I never thought I’d stay this long. I’m really very blessed my health is good and they want me to work.”
At almost seven decades of service and counting, she has inspired many of those around her.
“She can still run circles around people half her age,” said her co-nurse Julie Christianson, RN. “She’s very inspirational for the rest of us because she’s still working and she’s still sharp.”
[quote_center]“She’s very inspirational for the rest of us because she’s still working and she’s still sharp.”[/quote_center]
She worked so long that her years of service equates to half of the years since Tacoma General was founded in 1882!
“It gives me hope for myself. I want to be like her. I aspire to be like her, to have energy, that get up and go,” said Deb Hozeny, RN charge nurse for surgical services.
Now, she works two days a week, setting up operating rooms, supplying them with tools, equipment, and medications as needed in a OR department that can do 70 surgeries a day.
“If she sets up your room, you know everything is going to be there,” said staff nurse Bonnie Schurman.
Nothing is slowing her down except some technology.
“It’s difficult sometimes to keep up with the advancements,” Rigney said “I’m not a speed ball on the computer,” but she keeps on learning.
Over the years, SeeSee has seen improvements in patient care thanks to advances in medicine and technology, such as the shifting from paper medical records to an electronic system, and the introduction of the robotic da Vinci Surgery System at MultiCare.