Nursing Book Club
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder by Charles Graeber
A horrifying tale of a nurse turned serial killer, which Stephen King called the best book of the year
As soon as I picked up The Good Nurse, I knew I’d be in for a roller coaster ride. The paperback edition of a New York Times bestseller first published in 2013, it had a sensational cover photo and a blurb from Stephen King proclaiming it the “best book of the year.” It seemed perfect for a weekend at the beach, and I couldn’t wait to start.
First, let’s be clear that the title of this book is purely ironic. Charles Cullen could have been a good nurse, but he was a very, very bad person — the kind of person whose crimes make headlines and the national news. The media called him “the Angel of Death.”
I had actually remembered seeing this story in the news years ago and was looking forward to clarification of several points. The case was almost too shocking to believe: Cullen, who was a nurse from 1987 to 2003, had deliberately killed dozens — maybe hundreds — of his patients. These were not simply medical errors or even negligence.
Cullen methodically selected his victims by reading their medical charts and then gave them lethal doses of medication, which he learned to obtain in ways that were hard to detect. (In one hospital where he worked, Cullen found he could access deadly drugs by requesting innocuous ones stored in the same drawers.)