The Good Nurse is receiving a limited theatrical run on October 19 before it begins streaming a week later on October 26, and it stars Academy Award winners Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne. It also happens to be based on the real story of serial killer Charles Cullen, also known as “The Angel of Death.”
Charles Cullen was born in New Jersey in 1960, the youngest of eight children, and would later
refer to his childhood as “miserable.” He claimed to have been bullied when he was in school, and again later when he served aboard a submarine while in the US Navy. He attempted suicide many times throughout his life, the first time being when he was nine years old and drank chemicals from a chemistry set.
After being discharged from the Navy, Cullen began training as a nurse, and worked in that field from 1986 until his arrest in 2003. His home life was troubled, even before he began killing people; according to his former wife Adrianne, he was cruel to the family dogs (all true crime junkies know that’s a warning sign), and he had spiked people’s drinks with lighter fluid. She ended up filing a restraining order against him, worried that he might cause harm to her or their two daughters.
In 1988, Cullen gave a lethal overdose of intravenous medication to one of his patients at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, where he worked in the burn unit. He also later confessed to killing several other patients, and left when the hospital discovered contaminated IV bags and began investigating.
From there, he went to work at Warren Hospital, where he overdosed three elderly women with a heart medication. One of the victims claimed that a “sneaky male nurse” had approached as she slept and given her an injection, but her claim was considered unfounded.
That’s too bad, because he continued to spiral. Between January and September of 1996, when he was working at Hunterdon Medical Center, he later confessed to killing five patients by overdosing them on heart medications.
In 1998, he worked for the Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Allentown, was placed in charge of a ward consisting of respirator-dependent patients, and was subsequently accusing of giving drugs at unscheduled times. His employment was terminated after he was seen going into a patient’s room with a handful of syringes.
Despite all of this, he continued to work, mostly because there was a national shortage of nurses going on. Between 1999 and 2000, he killed at least six patients, and attempted to murder at least two more. When he worked at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, PA, a co-worker found some vials of medication in a disposal bin, and it was discovered that Cullen had taken the drugs. Instead of pressing charges, the hospital offered him a deal, he resigned and was given a “neutral recommendation.” Seven of his former co-workers alerted the DA, suspecting that he had used the stolen drugs to kill patients, but nothing was done about it beyond a botched so-called investigation.
Cullen’s final place of employment was Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey, where he worked in the critical care unit. He killed at least 13 patients within a year, and finally the hospital caught on that something wasn’t right when their computer system proved that was accessing records for patients he was not assigned to, and requesting medications that were not prescribed for any of his own patients. In 2003, the New Jersey Poison Information and Education system warned Somerset there was a possibility one of their employees was killing patients…and it still took three months for the hospital to let authorities know what was going on. This resulted in the deaths of at least five more patients.
How true is The Good Nurse to the real life events?
This is where the events of The Good Nurse come in. Although it remains to be seen how close to the original story the film will stay a nurse named Amy Loughren (played by Chastain in The Good Nurse) contacted the police to let them know she was concerned about Cullen’s history of procuring drugs and the possibility that he was responsible for patients’ deaths. With her help, authorities were finally able to arrest Charles Cullen.
Judging by the trailer for The Good Nurse, It seems like the police contact Amy, rather than her contacting them. But, whatever the variations between real life and script, The Good Nurse looks like a good watch with topnotch acting performances and plenty of chilling content.
Do you think Netflix does a good job with their thrillers? Will you watch The Good Nurse? Let us know what you think in the comments section.