America’s Oldest Working Nurse Retires at 96

By Darby Jones July 29, 2021
After working for seven decades as a nurse, Florence “SeeSee” Rigney says that “you never stop learning.”

Florence “SeeSee” Rigney worked for more than 70 years as a nurse at the MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital in Washington. At 96 years old, Rigney is believed to have been America’s oldest working nurse before hanging up her stethoscope in July. 

Rigney served as an operating room nurse, where she set up operating rooms for surgeons and prepped patients for surgery. She also served as a relief nurse when necessary.

“Even working into her nineties, SeeSee has never been one to slow down,” said Laureen Driscoll, president of MultiCare Tacoma General and Allenmore Hospitals, in a statement. “Some of her colleagues joked that they had to sprint to keep up with her.”

“She’s continued to be a dedicated nurse and an incredible resource to her colleagues and community. It’s humbling to stop and think about the thousands and thousands of lives she’s cared for. Everyone at MultiCare thanks SeeSee for her unmatched dedication and service, and we’re proud to honor her by supporting tomorrow’s future nurses,” Driscoll continued.

When Rigney began her nursing career, penicillin had just been introduced to the medical field. She began as a student nurse at the Tacoma General School of Nursing, then worked across the U.S. in Texas and Wyoming before returning to Tacoma. Rigney only took a “break” from nursing to raise her two children.

“I don’t like to sit around – I’ve always got to have something to do. That’s my nature,” Rigney said in a statement, adding that she always wanted to become a nurse. “I love to interact with patients and give them the help that I can.”

Rigney intended on retiring at age 65, but after six months at home, she decided to continue working to keep her mind sharp and stay active.

As she said goodbye to nursing, Rigney offered some words of wisdom for other nurses. “Don’t ever think that you know it all. I kind of did that when I was in the operating room and you have to always be open,” she said. “You never stop learning.”

The hospital announced the creation of its SeeSee Rigney Nursing Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will provide scholarships to MultiCare employees for continued learning and development.