Lt. Cmdr. Susan Murphy was 16-years-old and homeless when she realized she could break away from her unfortunate circumstances by joining the military.
Murphy, who said she became homeless after her parents got divorced and her mother remarried a man she described as a “con-man and a sex offender,” was interested in the medical field and believed that by enlisting in the military she could avoid becoming addicted to drugs or getting pregnant at a young age.
“Very, very easily, very quickly, I became homeless at the age of 16,” Murphy said, according to a Navy news release. “A lot of people look at me and they say, ‘How did you end up homeless?’ It just comes, and you can’t believe that it’s happening to you.”
Murphy, who was living in Modesto, California, at the time, headed to the Air Force recruiting office but was told there were no options available in the medical field. The Army and the Marine Corps didn’t appeal to her, but the Navy recruiting office had a poster of a swim call that attracted her attention.
“I can swim,” she said, reflecting back on that experience.
As a result, Murphy joined the Navy at 17 in 2004 and became a deck seaman through the General Detail Targeted Enlistment Program.
Initially, she was stationed at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington, where she was determined to work in the intensive care unit. However, things didn’t work out that way.
“I went to Naval Hospital Bremerton and, at the time, they still had an intensive care unit,” Murphy said in the release. “They were like, ‘Oh you can work in family medicine. It’s really easy. You’re going to like it,’ and I was insulted.”
Eventually, she decided she wanted to become an officer, applied to the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program and was selected. Once she became a nurse, though, she was assigned to a psychiatric unit rather than the ICU.
“I was so discouraged by that, but it happened to be a great experience being in the psych unit. I learned invaluable skills that I continue to use as a nurse today,” Murphy said.
Now, Murphy is a nurse aboard the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, based out of Norfolk, Virginia. She says the most fulfilling aspect of her role is mentoring junior hospital corpsmen to become more confident in their abilities.
“I have had the blessing of watching my sailors grow and have come to the realization that they are amazing; setting a goal and going after it,” she said in the release.
Murphy also remains motivated by the satisfaction of seeing a patient recover and leave the hospital.
“Getting people back to their families is my job,” she said. “I’m a sixth-generation nurse; it’s in my DNA. I care so much. and I hope that’s evident in how hard I work here and how hard I’ve worked everywhere else.”