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Woman said to be oldest working nurse in the country retires at age 96

Florence "SeeSee" Rigney says that after more than 70 years of working as a nurse, "you never stop learning."

A woman said to be the oldest working nurse in the country has retired from a Tacoma, Washington, hospital at the age of 96, according to NBC affiliate KING-TV.

Florence "SeeSee" Rigney served more than 70 years as a nurse at the MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital.

She began her career as an operating room nurse, just getting started as penicillin was introduced to the health care world. Since then, she's had very few "breaks" from her work, only taking a hiatus or two to care for her children, and one not-so-successful attempt to retire, which lasted only six months over 30 years ago, according to the local news station.

Florence "SeeSee" Rigney, the oldest working nurse in the country at 96 years old, has retired.
Florence "SeeSee" Rigney, the oldest working nurse in the country at 96 years old, has retired.via King 5

"I don’t like to sit around — I’ve always got to have something to do. That’s my nature,” Rigney told the local affiliate. “I don’t know exactly what made me want to become a nurse, but it was something that I always wanted to do. I love to interact with patients and give them the help that I can."

She is recognized by her peers as someone who always wants to jump in and help. Eager to remain active, she walks 3 miles or more on a regular basis.

"Some of her colleagues joked that they had to sprint to keep up with her,” Laureen Driscoll, president of MultiCare Tacoma General and Allenmore hospitals, told KING-TV. “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."

In all of her years, Rigney said, the biggest change she's seen in health care is in the amount of time patients spend at the hospital after having surgery, according to the local affiliate. Whereas in the past patients might have stayed 10 days or more, now most patients go home after just a few days.

Still, as the years have brought plenty of change, it seems she has been able to "keep up" by maintaining an open mind.

"Don’t ever think that you know it all," Rigney said while offering words of advice to younger nurses. "I kind of did that when I was in the operating room, and you have to always be open. You never stop learning.”

The hospital Rigney is retiring from plans to honor her legacy and dedication to her work by creating a scholarship in her name for MultiCare Tacoma General nurses and employees who are interested in pursuing nursing for continued learning and development, according to the local news station. The scholarship will officially be named the SeeSee Rigney Nursing Endowed Scholarship Fund.