They say the best doctors and nurses are the ones who have impeccable bedside manners. For me, that means having the same warm and loving qualities of a grandmother, who’s seen more than her fair share of fat lips and broken bones.
Enter the AHMAZING Florence “See See” Rigney, who is the country’s oldest registered working nurse.
At 91, Rigney can run circles around her colleagues at Tacoma General Hospital, where she graduated from nursing school and has been working at for an incredible 70 years.
“I have something to get up for in the morning,” she told NBC News last month. “And I do like to be able to interact with patients and give them what comfort and what help I can.”
Rigney actually tried to give retirement a go at 67, but it didn’t stick. And after just six months, she was back at work helping to set up operating rooms and helping patients to prepare for going into surgery. Though in the years since, she has scaled back her work-week to just two days a week.
“I always knew that I wanted to come back and work a little bit,” she told NBC News, “but I never realized I’d stay for 25 years.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 46.2 million seniors living in the U.S. — 3.4 million of which are collectively known as the first “Baby Boomers,” who just turned 70 in 2016. Most seniors are still working past retirement age, according to the AARP, but they tend to leave the workforce for good once they reach their late 70’s or early 80’s. It’s pretty rare to hear about anyone as old as 91 still working a full work week — much less in a fast-paced and frenetic environment as the one Rigney does.
Which is why, in 2015, Rigney became something of a local celebrity, after a YouTube video went viral showing her fellow nurses surprising her with a birthday tribute (which including them reading a letter written to her by the governor). And I gotta say, it’s pretty hard not to tear up watching the clip. The feeling of love people have for Rigney is palpable, as she’s very clearly deeply respected, loved, and admired by the fine doctors and nurses at Tacoma General Hospital. Doctors and nurses who, in many cases, weren’t even alive when she got on the job.
And a lot has certainly changed since the first days of her illustrious nursing career. For one, Rigney got her start right around the time Penicillin did. (Yep — I’ll let that sink for a moment.) Over the last 70 years, she’s sadly lost two husbands to cancer and a son. She’s also seen her beloved hospital go through many changes too, but says that memories of her patients and her time with Tacoma General, are cherished.
And it looks like Rigney has another great year of life and work ahead ahead of her — despite turning 92 this May, she doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
At 38, I sometimes complain that I feel old and tired running around after a career and two kids, plus one the way. But after watching footage of this little spitfire — who’s still working hard after more than 70 years in her beloved nursing career — I think I’ll stick a sock in it and be thankful that there are amazing people like her in the world. If I ever get to 92, I hope to be just like her.