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08/05/2018 11:05 SAST | Updated 08/05/2018 11:06 SAST

Graduating Gogo: Former Nurse Enjoys Being Called 'Doctor'

Dephyne Murray, the 72-year-old Fort Hare lecturer who just received her PhD in nursing, researched how divorce affects nurses, and the support they need.

72-year old Dephyne Murray, who recently graduated with a PhD in nursing.
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72-year old Dephyne Murray, who recently graduated with a PhD in nursing.

It is graduation season in South Africa, and Dephyne Murray was one of the thousands of people to receive her qualification — at 72, the mother and grandmother is now a doctor of philosophy.

The Fort Hare University lecturer says it is a great blessing to have obtained her PhD in nursing.

"I enjoy being called 'doctor' at 72," she told HuffPost on Monday — a neat irony, since she originally qualified as a nurse.

After retiring as the deputy director at the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital (CMH) in Mdantsane, East London, she was appointed as a student record manager at the institution. However, she had bigger plans.

She wanted to lecture on management, and the only way she could get a post was if she studied for her Masters. She achieved this goal in two years — but this was not enough for the self-proclaimed bookworm.

I was a nurse for over 40 years, and I saw some of staff members divorcing. My worry was always: how do sick people take care of sick people?

In 2013 she "took a chance" and applied for her PhD — after all, she says, she did have time on her hands.

"I am a mother and I have grandchildren, but they are either overseas, in Johannesburg, or PE (Port Elizabeth). My husband is 10 years older than me; he would sleep early."

Her PhD research was an extension work she began in her Masters — studying the effects of divorce on nurses, and creating a support model for them.

"I was a nurse for over 40 years, and I saw some of staff members divorcing. My worry was always: how do sick people take care of sick people?" Murray said.

She herself was divorced about 25 years ago, when she was a ward manager — and it took its toll on her wellbeing.

"I used to go to the toilet and cry," she admitted.

She now believes that the support model developed in her research should be used by the department of health to ensure that nurses, especially those in management, can be assisted when separating from their partners.

She is also going to continue working at the university, where she supervises Masters students.

"My brain is so sharp; I love teaching," she says with a chuckle.