The Good Nurse ending explained: How did the Eddie Redmayne true-crime drama conclude?

A sinister end to a chilling film

Eddie Redmayne as Charlie Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren in The Good Nurse
(Image credit: JoJo Wilden/Netflix/Future)

The Good Nurse is a chilling true-crime tale and we are here to confirm exactly how the film ended, and fill in the gaps for unanswered questions.

The Good Nurse is another true-crime adaptation taking the world by storm. It seems the public have an unrequited interest in all things grisly that really happened, and serial killer films and documentaries show no signs of slowing down. The film sees Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne star as two hard working nurses with a strong friendship - until one suspects the other of deliberately causing patient deaths, and Redmayne’s Charles Cullen is unveiled as a serial killer. Based on the 2013 book of the same name by Charles Graeber, The Good Nurse premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11. After a short cinematic release, it is now available to stream on Netflix. Here is a full breakdown of the film’s ending, and answers to other burning questions.

For more details about the true story (opens in new tab) behind The Good Nurse and Charles Graber's book, we have a full account of the events leading up to Charles Cullen's arrest. To find out the whereabouts of Charles Cullen now (opens in new tab), look no further as we have the answer. Cullen might have carried out his crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but The Good Nurse filmed (opens in new tab) somewhere entirely different - find out where.

The Good Nurse ending explained

The Good Nurse ends with Amy going to lunch with Charlie, and wearing a wire in the hope of recording a confession from him. Although she doesn’t procure a confession, Amy does manage to find out the name of the new hospital Charlie has taken a position at. 

The conversation they have while eating lunch is difficult for them both - Amy knows Charlie is aware she knows the truth about him, but neither will admit it. They say a tearful goodbye at the end of their meeting, and the police arrive to arrest Charlie before he makes his shift.  

Viewers then see a handcuffed Charlie being interrogated, who suggest he selected which patients to kill based on whether they reminded him of his mother or ex-wife. In trying to get a confession from him, the police manage to rile Charlie until he screams that he can’t give them what they want. He asks to see Amy who agrees, and even asks for his handcuffs to be removed  during her visit. 

She continues to treat him as a friend, covering him with a sweater and holding his hands. Gently, she says to him “I forgot about your goodness”, and apologises for what she has done to him. Eventually, Amy manages to elicit the confession the police are waiting for, and Charlie simply states “I just did it,” although can’t offer a reason for his actions. 

Amy has to dig even deeper to get the names of some victims out of him, until he gives in an names some of those he murdered - including Ana Martinez. Still looking for a reason why, Amy continues to probe Charlie until he offers “they didn’t stop me” as the reason he continued his murder spree.  Even after this startling conversation, Amy treats him with love and care, gently holding his hands. 

An update on Charlie before the credits roll reveals that to avoid a death sentence, he pled guilty to murdering 29 people. The real number of victims however, is believed to be closer to 400. He’s currently serving 18 consecutive life sentences and wouldn’t be eligible for parole until 2403. Throughout his 16 years nursing career, several hospitals had suspicions about his actions, but never acted on them. There have never been any criminal proceedings against any of the hospitals for not following up on concerns regarding his fitness to practice, or safety of those in his care.  

Good Nurse

(Image credit: Netflix)

Is Amy real in The Good Nurse?

Yes, Amy Loughren is a real nurse who worked with Charles Cullen and was responsible for ensuring his arrest. Just like Amy in The Good Nurse, the real Amy also has two daughters named Alex and Maya.

Amy and Cullen were very close friends throughout their time working together - she even referred to him at the time as her closest friend.  When detectives visited the hospital the pair were working at to investigate a series of abnormal lab reports, was when Amy first became aware Cullen could be doing something sinister. She was shown the list of drugs and dosages signed out by Cullen and realised immediately something was very wrong.

She was wary of becoming involved in the investigation for fear the publicity would turn her family’s life upside down. After discussing it with her eldest daughter - then aged 11 - her daughter urged her to go ahead with helping the police. Following Cullen’s conviction, Amy left  nursing in 2003. Still reeling from having been friends with a serial killer, she wanted to understand and learn more about herself. She didn’t return to nursing, instead choosing to practice alternative medicine such as reiki, hypnotherapy, and meditation. 

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Is Kelly Anderson real in The Good Nurse?

Kelly Anderson isn’t the real name of one of Charlie Cullen’s victims, but the way she died is based on real patients and victims of his.

Speaking to Vanity Fair (opens in new tab), film writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns wanted to keep the real victim’s identities private, as many of their families are still alive. She said “You don’t want to revictimise them [the victims]. We weren’t in those rooms. I didn’t meet the victims’ families to really understand who these people were. So frankly, I would feel a bit dirty [using their identities]”. Therefore, the names Kelly Anderson along with the film’s other predominant victim Ana Martinez, were made up. 

In the film, Kelly’s body is exhumed, and this really did happen to one of Cullen’s real victims. Researchers went through records of what happened to the real victims, and picked out various details from each one, to model Kelly and Ana with.   

The Good Nurse Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Charles Cullen: Timeline

Cullen graduated Mountainside Hospital Nursing School in 1986, gaining his first post as a qualified nurse at the burns unit of Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey

It is thought he carried out his first murder at this hospital in June 1988. From then until 2003, he worked at nine other hospitals where he was either sacked, or forced to leave. Although it is thought Cullen is responsible for the deaths of up to 400 patients in his care, it is impossible to identify them all. According to Seventeen (opens in new tab), there are 34 confirmed victims - some of these are attempted murders where he did not manage to take the victim's life. 

  • June 11, 1988: John W. Yengo, Sr., 72
  • March 9, 1991: Lucy Vigilone Mugavero, 90
  • July 23, 1991: Mary Natoli, 85
  • September 1, 1991: Helen Dean, 91
  • January 21, 1996: LeRoy Sinn, 71
  • May 31, 1996: Earl Young, 76
  • June 9, 1996: Catherine A. Dext, 49
  • June 24, 1996: Frank Mazzacco, 66
  • July 10, 1996: Jesse Eichlin, 81
  • December 31, 1998: Ottomar A. Schramm, 78
  • August 31, 1999: Matthew Mattern, 22
  • February 2000: Stella Danielczyk, 73 (attempted murder)
  • February 8, 2001: John Gallagher, 90 (attempted murder)
  • June 22, 2001: Irene Krampf, 79
  • November 8, 2001: William Park, 72
  • December 28, 2001: Paul Galgon, 72 (attempted murder)
  • January 9, 2002: Samuel Spangler, 80
  • May 5, 2002: Daniel George, 82
  • June 2, 2002: Edward O'Toole, 76
  • February 12, 2003: Eleanor Stoecker, 60
  • February 23, 2003: Joyce E. Mangini, 74
  • February 23, 2003: Giacomino J. Toto, 89
  • March 11, 2003: John J. Shanagher, 83
  • April 6, 2003: Dorthea K. Hoagland, 80
  • May 5, 2003: Melvin T. Simcoe, 66
  • May 15, 2003: Michael T. Strenko, 21
  • June 18, 2003: Philip Gregor, 48 (attempted murder)
  • June 28, 2003: Reverend Florian J. Gall, 68
  • June 29, 2003: Jin Kyung Han, 40 (attempted murder)
  • July 13, 2003: Pasquale M. Napolitano, 80
  • August 11, 2003: Christopher B. Hardgrove, 38
  • August 27, 2003: Frances Agoada, 83 (attempted murder)
  • September 20, 2003: Krishnakant Upadhyay, 70
  • September 23, 2003: James R. Strickland, 83
  • October 21, 2003: Edward P. Zizik, 73

The real Charles Cullen in court during his trial

(Image credit: Sipa US/Alamay)

Did Charles Cullen have a wife?

Charles Cullen married Adrienne Taub in 1987, and the couple divorced in 1994. They had two daughters together, named Shauna and Saskia. 

According to the Cinemaholic (opens in new tab), their marriage was not a happy one. By the time Taub filed for divorce in 1993, she claimed her husband was angry, unsupportive, and abusive to their children and pets. The divorce papers claimed "unusual behaviour" and "extreme cruelty" as reasons for the separation. 

It was reported that Taub tried to get a restraining order against Cullen, accusing him of leaving babysitters in charge of the children for weeks at a time, deliberately burning their books, and spiking drinks with lighter fluid. This was said to be refused because no physical harm ever came to the children. Taub was granted custody of Shauna and Saskia in 1994, with Cullen allowed some unsupervised visits. 

After Cullen’s 2003 arrest, reporters found Taub’s home where she gave her only statement on the situation, saying "You can imagine what we are going through. Leave my family and children out of it. I have nothing to say." The family have not been seen or heard of since, and it is believed they have changed their identities. 

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