The Disturbing True Story Behind Netflix’s ‘The Good Nurse’

Not every movie is based on a true story, but when they are, the suspense increases. Why that may be is a question we ask ourselves repeatedly. Perhaps it is the excitement or fascination of realizing that what you’re watching at home on a screen is based on real people’s lived experiences. But there is no denying that watching a truth-based film can bring an unexplainable feeling, either positive or negative. 

Since we’re on the subject of movies based on actual events, let’s talk about “The Good Nurse,”  which debuted on Netflix on Oct. 26. The film portrays the actual story of Charles Cullen, a hospital nurse, and how he committed numerous crimes that went unnoticed for years. The movie also shows viewers how broken the healthcare system was at the time.

While working in hospitals all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Cullen’s 16-year career resulted in the deaths of 29 confirmed patients. However, it is estimated that he may have killed up to 400 people in total using a variety of techniques, including secretly administering medications like digoxin and insulin to the victims, according to TIME

Courtesy of Netflix.

Thanks to Netflix’s “The Good Nurse,” viewers are finally able to see how Cullen’s crimes were discovered. The film stars Jessica Chastain, who plays Amy Loughren, a fellow nurse, and Eddie Redmayne, who plays Charles Cullen. The film also draws inspiration from Charles Graeber’s book of the same name.

The notorious serial killer had a number of known mishaps while he was a nurse, which questions the safety of the healthcare system. According to The New York Times, before being arrested, Cullen was fired from numerous jobs, avoided four suspicious death investigations, was hospitalized for mental health issues four times and survived at least three or four suicide attempts.

He also admitted to prosecutors that he intentionally administered drugs that resulted in overdoses, which caused the death of up to 40 people. People even saw his unpredictable, suspicious and even criminal behavior everywhere he went. But the terrible truth was that no matter where he traveled, Cullen was still able to find employment.

Cullen earned the nickname “Angel of Death” in 2006 after being arrested for killing 29 confirmed victims. But how was the infamous serial killer caught?

As reported by the New York Post, it was never thoroughly explained how the case detectives were able to stop Charles Cullen until Charles Graeber’s book, “The Good Nurse,” revealed the identity of a covert informant, Amy Loughren, who ultimately solved the case. 

Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren. Courtesy of Netflix.

Amy Loughren, a nurse at Somerset Medical Center, was Cullen’s colleague and close friend. When detectives got in touch with her, Loughren volunteered to give them hospital records, wear a wire to attempt to coax a confession out of Cullen and even speak with him in the interrogation room.

All credit goes to Loughren, who, in essence, was the one who recognized “the scope of Cullen’s madness,” as the New York Post puts it. But even after another patient on the unit reportedly experienced a nonfatal insulin overdose on Aug. 27, 2003, Cullen was permitted to stay in the critical care unit at the Somerset Medical Center while the hospital’s investigation was ongoing, The New York Times reports. 

Hospital administrators “combed over Mr. Cullen’s personnel file,” according to The New York Times, and found that Cullen had lied on his application for employment. On Oct. 31 that year, he was fired. 

In the weeks that followed, prosecutors closely monitored Cullen as they gathered the proof required to bring charges. Finally, on Dec. 12, Mr. Cullen and his date were consuming spring rolls and drinking beer in Somerville, when the police surrounded him.

Soon after, Mr. Cullen gave the police a shocking description of his 16 years as a caregiver and murderer, claiming to have poisoned 12 to 15 people at Somerset, at least six at St. Luke’s and between 10 and 20 at other locations. He was arrested shortly after. 

And there you have it: the unsettling truth behind “The Good Nurse.”

“The Good Nurse” is available to stream on Netflix.  

By Brianna DiMaio

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