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At 88, oldest nurse in U.S. still going strong at Tacoma General

Posted on Apr. 8, 2013 ( comments)

The nation's oldest nurse is still going strong at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. At 88 years old, SeeSee Rigney, RN, has no plans to slow down.

"I love nursing," SeeSee said. "Since I was a little girl, it was something that I always wanted to do."

In 1946, SeeSee graduated from the Tacoma General Hospital School of Nursing. More than 67 years later, she's still at Tacoma General, working as a staff nurse in Surgical Services.

“She can still run circles around people half her age,” said Julie Christianson, RN. “She’s very inspirational for the rest of us because she’s still working and she’s still sharp.”

These days, SeeSee wears blue surgical scrubs instead of the historical white uniform, nurse's cap and cape she wore at graduation. She keeps those in a cedar chest at home.

Born in 1925, SeeSee celebrated her 88th birthday on May 8 during National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6 to May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

See See RigneyEarlier this year, one of SeeSee's co-workers read a story titled, "Meet the Nation's Oldest Working Nurse" about a 87-year-old woman in Tennessee. SeeSee is seven months older.

"I really don't feel 88," SeeSee said. "Some days I do."

SeeSee works two days a week. She doesn't directly work with patients during surgeries anymore, but rather sets up the operating rooms with supplies and equipment for a department that can do 70 surgeries a day.

"I guess I'm kind of a perfectionist," SeeSee said. "I'm picky. I get on people. I say that I'm here to kind of keep watch on them. They call me their mother."

When she wore a pedometer at work, SeeSee walked more than 7 miles a day. Co-workers say she's hard to keep up with.

"It gives me hope for myself," said Deb Hozeny, RN, charge nurse for surgical services. "I want to be like her. I aspire to be like her, to have energy, that get up and go."

Over the years, SeeSee has seen improvements in patient care thanks to advances in medicine and technology, such as the elimination of paper medical records at Tacoma General and the introduction of the robotic da Vinci Surgery System at MultiCare.

"Patients recover faster these days," SeeSee said.

SeeSee plans to work at least another year.

"I like being able to help people," See See said. "I feel I'm blessed to be able to be here. I'll just see what the future brings."

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