Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

Does One Bad Apple Spoil the Whole Bunch?

I recently watched a movie on Netflix, THE GOOD NURSE, which is based on a true story. Have you seen it?

If you have not and plan to, please be warned this article contains spoilers.

What I liked about this story is that it focused on the good nurse, Amy Loughan, rather than her fellow nurse, Charles Cullen, who we eventually learn is the serial killer.

Cullen would take Digoxin and Insulin from the Pyxis for a patient, he’d cancel the order and the drawer remained opened, a defect that at the time was fairly rampant in a number of hospitals.

Cullen would take out Insulin and Digoxin and inject those into IV bags in the supply room. He would not know which patients would receive the contaminated bag of fluids. I can see the reason it took so long for him to be caught.

Now, I had a couple of concerns after watching the movie.

First, it is crazy how we can work with a nurse, grow close to them, and then discover a deep dark secret that changes everything you thought about them.

I would be surprised to befriend a serial killer but, unfortunately, we nurses tend to be so kind and giving that many of us only see the good part of individuals and humanity.

I once met a person who claimed she once actually dated a serial killer! She does not believe he was killing at the time of their relationship but began his murderous spree sometime after they parted.

Another thing about the movie was that Cullen had worked at 9 other hospitals before this one. Each hospital suspected something was up but none of them did

anything. No one investigated him so there was no one to stop him. In fact, he commented when asked why he did it and said, “No one stopped me.”

He went on to plead guilty to 29 murders but there may have been as many as 400 victims. He managed to avoid the death penalty but was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. Despite his sentence, there were never any actions taken against the hospitals. That was wrong!

I once personally took a deposition of a nurse who said she was terminated from her job. Based on my knowledge as a professional licensing defense attorney, I asked if she reported her termination to the Board to which she said, “No.”

I asked why she was terminated from the hospital, she replied, “Positive drug screen.”

When I ask why she was terminated from the previous hospital, she repeated, “Positive drug screen.”

And what about the hospital prior to that? Again, “Positive drug screen.”

I was shocked that those hospitals would terminate her but never report her to the Board. She claimed it was just marijuana and, to her, it didn’t matter. However, marijuana is still illegal in Indiana and really for any nurse.

By hospitals not doing their part in reporting suspicious activities or employees with suspected impairments, nurses are being allowed to move on to the next hospital to do the same thing.

I applaud the bravery of the good nurse, Ms. Loughan, who befriended Cullen and eventually got him to confess to his crimes. It was her bravery and commitment to ensure the safety of other patients that is so endearing.

Since these events, nurse Loughan has left nursing to, as she put it, work on herself.

As nurses we tend to jump all into our job and want to help everyone. However, many times we forget that the most important person we can help is our self.

Recently there was a nurse in North Carolina who has been charged with killing 2 people with Insulin. Unfortunately, in those cases, the bad apple succeeded in causing harm to her patients.

Let’s not let a few bad apples spoil our whole profession. It is our duty, responsibility, and privilege to protect our patients and profession. And when we find bad apples in nursing, we need to call them out and put a stop to them.

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