The Netflix crime thriller The Good Nurse is about a serial killer named Charles “Charlie” Cullen. He kills several patients admitted to the hospitals where he works.
As the film reveals, Cullen’s killing spree ended when his colleague Amy Loughren thought he was behind the strange deaths at Somerset Medical Center, where they both worked.
Amy helped catch the serial killer by working with detectives Tim Braun and Danny Baldwin. Cullen had worked at several hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before coming to Somerset Hospital and meeting Amy. We can help you learn more about the same hospitals if you’d like.
Charles Cullen worked in how many hospitals?
Charles Cullen worked in 9 hospitals including Somerset Medical Center. Cullen began working at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey in 1986 after graduating from nursing school. In 1988, Cullen killed a judge named John W. Yengo Sr. in Jersey City in what is believed to be his first murder. But Charles Graeber’s book, on which the film is based, says the serial killer said he killed an AIDS patient in 1987, but he hasn’t officially told police about it. During his five years at St. Barnabas, he was convicted of only one murder.
In 1992, Cullen was forced to leave Saint Barnabas after an investigation into contaminated IV bags. His colleagues didn’t know why he left. He then began working at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Graeber’s book says he kept killing people, including Helen Dean, who was recovering from breast cancer surgery when she was killed. After leaving, Cullen worked at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, New Jersey.
Cullen killed Jesse Eichin in the center by dosing him with digoxin. But Eichin may not be the only one injured at Hunterdon. Graeber wrote in his book that Cullen didn’t actually remember the names of the people he injected and killed at Hunterdon. He then worked at Morristown Memorial Hospital in Morristown, New Jersey. According to Graeber’s source text, Cullen was certain he had killed at the Morristown Memorial, but could not say how many or how few. Cullen’s next job was at the Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Francis Henry was killed by Cullen in the hospital. After his time at Liberty, Cullen went to Easton Hospital in Easton, Pennsylvania. While Cullen was in Easton, Ottomar Schramm died. There was a lot of digoxin in his body, but Schramm’s doctor didn’t give him the same amount. Cullen began working at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania in March 1999. “Cullen did remember killing four or five patients in the Lehigh Valley,” Graeber’s book says, but only Matthew Mattern and Stella Danielczyk were named by police.
The nurse later worked at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He reportedly killed at least six of his patients at St. Luke. After leaving St. Luke, Cullen moved to Somerset, where he worked with Amy, killing at least 13 and maybe as many as 16 patients. The last hospital Cullen worked at before his arrest was Somerset.
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Why hasn’t a hospital told the police about Charles Cullen?
Cullen only officially admitted to killing 40 patients, but the actual number is believed to be closer to 400. Some of his employers thought he had something to do with the deaths, which didn’t make sense. However, none of the nine hospitals reportedly reported him. Not only did they not report him, but they also helped him get hired at other hospitals by writing good things about him. That made it easier for him to kill again. But why didn’t they tell anyone about him? Well, the main reason has to be that the hospitals need to keep their good name.
The hospitals Cullen worked at might have thought that if the world found out they had hired a serial killer, it would damage their reputation and credibility. More than saving lives, it seems these hospitals are more concerned with protecting their reputations by hiding the fact that one of history’s most prolific serial killers killed people there. Even after Cullen was caught, a group of hospitals said they were not responsible for the murders Cullen committed.
If they had immediately told the police about the patients’ unnatural deaths and their suspicion that Cullen was involved, their claim would have been true. The hospitals must have given the other companies good references so they would hire Cullen. A bad report could have been taken as an admission of wrongdoing in those hospitals, so the hospitals must have given good reports. The hospitals must not have told anyone about Cullen because they didn’t want to deal with expensive lawsuits from the families of the dead patients.
Charles Cullen was born on February 22, 1960 in West Orange, New Jersey. He was the youngest of eight children in a working-class Irish Catholic family. His father Edmond was a bus driver. He died on September 17, 1960 when Charles was only seven months old. Cullen later said his childhood was “horrible” and that he was constantly teased by his classmates and his sisters’ friends. At the age of 9 he tried to kill himself for the first time. He did this by drinking chemicals from a chemical box.
Florence Cullen (née Ward), Cullen’s mother, moved to the United States from England after World War II. She died in a car accident on December 6, 1977 when Cullen was his senior year of high school. She was 55 years old. Cullen said his mother’s death was “devastating,” and he was upset that the hospital didn’t tell him right away and cremated her body instead of returning it to him.
The next year, Cullen dropped out of high school and enlisted in the US Navy. He served on the submarine USS Woodrow Wilson. He performed well on basic training and the rigorous psychological tests required of U-boat crews, who were expected to remain submerged in a small boat for up to two months at a time. Cullen became a second-class corporal because he was part of the team that fired the Poseidon missiles at the ship. During his time in the Navy he didn’t fit in with the rest of the crew so they made fun of him and picked on him.
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A year into his service, Cullen’s senior NCO found him sitting at the missile controls on the Woodrow Wilson while wearing a surgical mask, gloves and gown in place of his uniform.
Cullen got in trouble for it, but he never said why he was dressed like that. The Navy gave Cullen a less stressful job on the support ship USS Canopus. He attempted suicide and was placed in the Navy’s psychiatric unit several times over the next few years. Cullen was discharged from the Navy in 1984 on medical parole for reasons that were not made public.
Cullen attended nursing school at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, New Jersey shortly after being discharged from the hospital. He was elected president of his nursing class, graduated in 1986, and began working in the burns department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.
Cullen met Adrianne Baum in 1987 and they married that same year. Later that year her first of two girls, Shauna, was born. But Cullen’s wife grew increasingly resentful of his odd behavior and the way he treated the family dogs. She obtained a restraining order against him in 1993, fearing he would harm her or her two children. She said Cullen put lighter fluid in people’s drinks, burned his daughter’s books, and left his children with a babysitter for a week. Cullen said those claims weren’t true and that his wife made something up. However, she kept saying that Cullen had a mental illness.
Cullen later said that the first murders he committed took place in Saint Barnabas. On June 11, 1988, he administered an intravenous drug overdose to a patient that killed him. Cullen eventually said he killed several other people at Saint Barnabas, including an AIDS patient who died after being given too much insulin. When the hospital began investigating the contaminated IV bags in January 1992, Cullen left Saint Barnabas. The investigation later determined that Cullen was most likely to blame, resulting in the deaths of dozens of hospital patients.
After leaving Saint Barnabas for a month, Cullen got a job at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg. There he killed three elderly women by giving them too much of the heart drug digoxin. His last victim testified that a “smart nurse” gave her an injection while she was sleeping. But her family and the doctors and nurses at the hospital told her she was wrong.
After a falling out with his wife, Cullen moved into a basement apartment in Phillipsburg the following year. Cullen later said that he wanted to stop being a nurse in 1993, but that he had to keep working because he had to pay child support. In March 1993, Cullen broke into a co-worker’s home while she and her young son were sleeping. He left without waking her. The woman then called the police because he was following her. Cullen then pleaded guilty to trespassing and was placed on probation for a year. The day after his arrest, he tried to kill himself again.
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