Top 10 Things The Good Nurse Got Factually Right and Wrong
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Cassondra Feltus
"The Good Nurse" is a shocking movie, but what's factually right and wrong? For this list, we'll be looking at what's real and what's fiction in Netflix's crime drama. Our countdown includes hospitals stalled investigations, Amy needed a heart transplant, Cullen's killing methods, and more!
Top 10 Things The Good Nurse Got Factually Right and Wrong
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things The Good Nurse Got Factually Right and Wrong.
For this list, we’ll be looking at what’s real and what’s fiction in Netflix’s crime drama.
What did you think of “The Good Nurse”? Let us know in the comments.
#10: Charles Cullen’s Ex-Wife & Children
In the Netflix film, Charles Cullen confides in his new friend Amy Loughren, now Ridgway, that he has two daughters with his ex-wife. He doesn’t see them too often due to the messy divorce and hostility of his ex. According to him, she accused him of hurting their dog. In real life, Cullen did marry Adrianne Baum in 1987 and the couple had two daughters. But after issues in their marriage, she filed for divorce in 1993. Adrianne also filed a restraining order against him, citing his erratic behavior, and violence towards their dogs. Like in the film, Cullen dismissed her claims as exaggerated. Around this time, he stalked a female coworker and was charged with trespassing, as mentioned in the film.
#9: Names of Hospitals & Patients
In the film, Charles and Amy work together at Parkfield Memorial Hospital in New Jersey. He also mentions his previous experience at several other places. These aren’t the real hospitals where he worked, which were likely changed for legal reasons. He met Amy at Somerset Medical Center, which the film states is his ninth hospital of employment. The names of the patients in the film are also fictional but for a different reason. Director Tobias Lindholm and writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns decided not to recreate the deaths of real patients out of respect for their families. Instead, the film employs characters with non-terminal conditions like the elderly Ana Martinez and young mother Kelly Anderson to illustrate just how randomly Charles Cullen chose his victims.
#8: Charles Cullen’s Mother Died in a Hospital
Shortly after meeting, Charles tells Amy about the tragic death of his mother when he was younger, and how the hospital lost her body afterwards. In real life, his mother Florence Cullen died after a car accident on December 6, 1977. Charles was a high school senior at the time. Though he was told she was in an accident, he didn’t know she was dead until he arrived at the hospital to see her. The hospital didn’t lose her body as it’s said in the film, but they did cremate her rather than returning her body to the family. In both cases, the tragic situation was poorly handled.
#7: Hospitals Stalled Investigations
The negligence of Parkfield Memorial Hospital may seem exaggerated in the film but sadly, it is not. Parkfield’s risk manager Linda Garran repeatedly makes excuses for their actions and inactions. Along with others, her unwillingness to cooperate with detectives Danny Baldwin and Tim Braun, both based on the real detectives, significantly impedes the investigation. Like the fictional Parkfield, Somerset Medical Center held important information for months before reporting it to police, giving Cullen time to kill five more patients during that time. They also lied about the data storage on the drug dispensing system. And when the real detectives Baldwin and Braun inquired about Cullen’s work history at other hospitals and even his harassment charges involving a former coworker, they were just as blatantly uncooperative.
#6: Amy Loughren Was the Only Nurse to Take Action Against Cullen
The film implies that until law enforcement enlisted the help of Amy Loughren, no other coworkers tried to get someone to look into Charles Cullen. While Loughren is the most involved in the investigation that ultimately stopped him, other nurses called attention to his suspicious behavior at previous hospitals. When he started working at Sacred Heart Hospital in June 2001, one of the nurses expressed her concerns regarding rumors of the internal investigation at Easton Hospital a few years prior. Right before he went to Somerset, multiple coworkers at St. Luke’s Hospital spoke up after the suspicious deaths of five patients and evidence he’d taken and disposed of medications. Despite proof he’d stolen medications, Cullen resigned without consequences.
#5: Amy Needed a Heart Transplant
After Charles sees Amy struggling to breathe at work, she confides in him that she has a heart condition, something she keeps secret from her employers who wouldn’t allow her to work. He promises to keep it between them and that he’ll help her out when she needs him. A doctor informs Amy that her condition is dire. The real Amy did suffer from cardiomyopathy. However, after having a pacemaker implanted, a heart transplant wasn’t needed. Amy had the surgery before the investigation and she had to convince the detectives that she, and her heart, could handle the stress.
#4: Amy & Charles Were Best Friends
When Amy Loughren and Charles Cullen first meet while working the night shift in Parkfield’s intensive care unit, they click right away and become fast friends. The more they confided in each other about their personal lives and spent time together outside of work, the closer they became, which is why it was so hard for her to believe that there could be a darker side to him. The real Amy felt the same way about her friend that she believed to be kind and considerate. She struggled to go through with the plan to manipulate Charles into revealing he’d been murdering patients. But in the end, Amy was able to use their friendship to put away a cold-blooded killer.
#3: Charles Spent Time with Amy’s Kids
As Charles and Amy’s friendship grows, the film shows him meeting the single mother’s two young daughters, Maya and Alex. He regularly offers to babysit and even does so unannounced, much to Amy’s surprise and concern. In one tense scene, she arrives home to see him in her home alone with the girls and cooking dinner. In real life, her daughters were a little older, and wouldn’t have met Cullen - at least according to true crime author, Charles Graeber. They were eventually made aware that their mother’s coworker might’ve been a murderer. Alex, her oldest, encouraged Amy to help the police catch him even if it meant putting their family at risk.
#2: Cullen’s Killing Methods
Since the film is from Amy’s point-of-view, Charles isn’t actually shown committing any of the murders or contaminating IV bags. Instead, we see him performing regular nurse duties without causing any suspicion. After speaking with a friend and fellow nurse, Amy checks the storage room of IV bags and discovers they’d been spiked. She later goes right in after Charles sets a patient up with a bag of fluids and switches it out with a new one. The real Charles Cullen reportedly killed patients by injecting lethal doses of unprescribed medication into their system, mainly digoxin, insulin, or a cocktail of both. Digoxin slows down a patient’s heart rate, and insulin lowers their blood sugar, meaning high doses of either or both prove to be fatal.
#1: How He Was Caught
When investigators realized they didn’t have enough solid evidence to arrest Charles Cullen for murder, they knew what they needed was a confession. Amy Loughren agreed to wear a wire and try to get her friend to admit what he’d done. At the diner, their tense exchange only lasts minutes before Cullen has an outburst and abruptly leaves, refusing to talk about Parkfield. This is really close to how it actually happened - except the exchange was said to have been much longer. When he walked out, he was arrested. Like in the film, she also visited Cullen while he was in the interrogation room with the detectives, where they spent at least seven hours convincing him to confess.