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Serial Killers Who are Nurses!

Why do nurses kill?

Nurses General Nursing Article   posted

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

Serial killers - we've all heard of them and they often intrigue us. What drives people to kill? What about nurses who kill?

Serial Killers Who are Nurses!
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The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) recently held its annual conference in Austin, Texas. Nearly 3,800 attendees chose from almost 200 presentations as they learned about the latest in emergency health, continued their education through hands-on clinical simulations and networked with their peers from around the world.

One of the most popular presentations was Death Row: What We Can Learn from Nurse Serial Killers! by Gina Carbino, BSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, TCRN, CTRN, CFRN CCRN, PCCN, SANE-A.

allnurses.com staff were fortunate to interview the presenter.

We initially asked what piqued your interest in this topic? Gina replied, "I have always been fascinated with toxicology. I started to research drugs that are most common to overdose on - potassium, digoxin, and beta-blockers. I was going to do a lecture on the drugs and their reversal agents. I ran across a case of a nurse serial killer that used beta-blockers to kill his patients. I was hooked! It is such a fascinating topic. With the new movie on Ted Bundy and Mindhunter series on Netflix, I thought it was great time to learn more about this phenomenon. I have spent the last two years researching nurse serial killers."

Though serial killers are not common, hence the interest, we asked about common characteristics among nurses who were serial killers. Gina's research showed that almost all 27 nurse serial killers have traits in common.

  • They all use only a handful of drugs: insulin, potassium, beta-blockers, and epinephrine.
  • Transferred jobs/hospitals frequently.
  • All seemed to be present during code situations.
  • One of them (Neils Hogel) was called "resuscitation rambo" by his coworkers.

All of these serial killers were eventually caught. However, in several cases, it took years to bring them to justice. What evidence led to the investigation of suspicious deaths? Gina responded, "In almost all cases there was a spike in mortality rate in the hospital. In one case, in Indiana, the annual mortality rate quadrupled. In pediatric cases, the nurses and pediatricians found the events suspicious. Things just didn't add up."

What commonalities exist in this segment? Is there a common mental illness diagnosis among nurse serial killers? Beverley Allitt, for instance, was diagnosed with Munchhausen. A majority suffered childhood trauma. Charles Cullen was a stalker that broke into his coworker's house while she and her child were asleep. He suffered from depression and multiple suicide attempts. Also, a majority never seemed to "fit in." Beverley Allitt was found rubbing feces on the wall during one of her nursing clinical rotations. She flunked out of her first attempt at nursing school related to these types of issues. She later went on to murder 4 children and attempt murder in 6 more. She was taken on a temporary six-month contract at the chronically understaffed Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire in 1991, where she began work in Children's Ward 4. There were only two trained nurses on the day-shift and one for nights when she started, which might explain how her violent, attention-seeking behavior went undetected for as long as it did.

Gina went on to explain, "I think it is important to note that that nurse serial killers are extremely rare. They are only a fraction of one percent of nurses. Nurses as a whole are extremely dedicated, ethical, and trustworthy group of professionals."

allnurses.com thanks Gina Carbino and ENA for their assistance

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Walti, LPN, LVN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in ICU/ER mostley ER 25 years.

The article was too short!

I once worked in a hospital that had a serial killer in it's recent past. From what I was told by those who knew him he did not want to kill any one, just take them to the brink and get them back so he could be the hero. Although he had a lot of deaths he also had a lot of saves. Recalling him sends chills down my spine!


Specializes in ICU/ER/Med-Surg/Case Management/Manageme.

Agree with Walti - too short! So interesting. Tell us more. 😄

gere7404, BSN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Cardiac.

"Beverley Allitt was found rubbing feces on the wall during one of her nursing clinical rotations."

lol, I can only imagine what it would have looked like if she posted here explaining how unfair it was for her to be kicked out of nursing school and asking for recommendations for how to get back in.

21 hours ago, Walti said:

The article was too short!

I once worked in a hospital that had a serial killer in it's recent past. From what I was told by those who knew him he did not want to kill any one, just take them to the brink and get them back so he could be the hero. Although he had a lot of deaths he also had a lot of saves. Recalling him sends chills down my spine!

That’s soo crazy to me as I spend all my time desperately keeping my patients from coding (yes, I’m an ICU nurse who hates codes!)

Walti, LPN, LVN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in ICU/ER mostley ER 25 years.

Thank you for all of your saves and condolences to you for your losses. The sad but good thing about codes is that with each one you gain experience and that means the likelihood of good outcomes in the future improves.

Fascinating article but like others said, way too short! I agree that there may be many nursing serial killers that kill bc they are sick but what about those that kill bc they believe they are doing a service to the patient or the patient’s family?

It seems to be coming more common with the those that are unable to care for their loved ones for a whole host of reasons are beginning to “put them out of their misery.” At least is the way the news and the courts are portraying those cases.

I read recently a case about an elderly couple in Florida where the man had been caring for his aging and Alzheimer’s wife. He just decided he couldn’t do it physically, emotionally, mentally anymore. He killed her. The courts were lienent with him. Another case occurred more recently where an elderly grandmother was caring for her 30 year old, medically and mentally challenged grandson on the weekends. He lived in a group home during the week. The young man’s father was deceased (if I remember correctly) and his mother was not in the picture. The grandmother’s health was failing and she was worried about the care of her grandson. Well she ended up poisoning him and he died. They arrested her but I bet they’re not going to be too hard on her either.

Both of these cases have something in common: they killed their loved one bc they believed they were doing it for compassion. I have also read about nurses that kill for similar reasons. I am not saying it’s okay but now that euthanization is now being discussed, this subject and circumstance may become more common.


Specializes in ICU/ER/Med-Surg/Case Management/Manageme.

You bring up some excellent and interesting points, dholly2015. Quality of life. The two cases you mentioned...I would hate to be one of the people having to decide their fates.

I now work entirely with seniors ranging in age from 55 to 93. And I am a senior, as well. Across the board, those that are in the 70 and above age group would vote quality over quantity for whole hosts of reasons...financial, physical, depression related to the previous reasons. Personally, I believe people should have input and some control over their end-of-life decisions but that absolutely does not include a killer/serial killer making that decision for them. We all need advance directives and they need to be honored. Those with mental inabilities? Tougher and perhaps an ethics committee? I'm not sure about that scenario.

The man and grandmother who killed their loved ones? Compassionate. The serial killers? Pure evil.

Walti, LPN, LVN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in ICU/ER mostley ER 25 years.

Microsoft Edge has an article by USA Today in this mornings news feed about nurses who kill their patients. I think it may have been generated by the recent VA deaths but went well beyond them. It is a worthwhile read.

OyWithThePoodles, RN

Specializes in Med-surg, school nursing..

I read this article on facebook and loved all of the "STOP MAKING NURSES OUT TO BE THE BAD GUYS!" comments. I was pleasantly surprised to see none of those comments here.

FTR I am no serial killer, but I love reading about them!


Specializes in Behavioral Health.

Consider the case of Dr. William Husel in Columbus Ohio who is charged with 25 counts of murder.

Some have argued that Husel's patients were near the end of life and he was ending his patient's suffering. But attorneys for the victims families have argued that the paralytics Husel gave made for an inaccurate picture of the patients’ true conditions – making it appear as though they were brain dead.

Besides that, euthanasia is illegal in Ohio. And even if it were legal there was no informed consent from the patients or their families.

Clearly, Husel was serial killer whose killing spree lasted at least 5 years (that the authorities knew of). But he did it in plain sight. And pharmacists, RNs and fellow physicians who worked with Husel were accessories for failing to report him to the administration or the Board of Medicine.

I wonder how many Husels are out there that get away with it. Because the over all, the state of healthcare remains very patriarchal with physicians that have little oversight at the top of the food chain. And physician peer review is often weak with conflicts of interest. Many of us have worked with physicians who should not be allowed near a patient, and their peers know it too; but nothing is done about it other than the occasional slap on the wrist.

Nurses on the other hand, are held to a higher standard. And unlike physicians who tend to take up for one another or who remain silent if they cannot say anything positive about a peer -nurses eat their young and will throw another nurse under the bus for forgetting to click a box in a chart or forgetting some mundane task not related to patient care.

I agree with there being element of Munchhausen and even Munchhausen by proxy with nurses who kill. I read an article that stated that 80% Munchhausen cases involve individuals with a medical background and 75% are female. Interestingly, a cursory and unscholarly Google search shows that men in nursing are well represented amongst nurses who kill. And certainly, with most Axis II & IV disorders there is a large history of abuse -with that said not everyone with a history of trauma turns into a serial killer.

Edited by DaveMHA-RN


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