Netflix’s “The Good Nurse,” based on a 2014 true-story book, has excellent acting, especially from the two main characters, both of whom play nurses. Jessica Chastain, who is Amy Loughren, is the “good nurse.” Eddie Redmayne, who is Charlie Cullen, is the opposite. (Spoiler Alert: If readers don’t wish to know why Charlie is not a good nurse, they should read no further, though they could probably guess why well before the movie’s mid point.)
Readers might also wish to know that I’m a big fan of nurses and was married to one for 58 years. Nance worked at student health centers at Georgetown and Eastern Michigan, and in emergency rooms in D.C. and Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti. On her obituary website, one of her co-workers said this: “Nancy was a very special woman, very caring, loving and kind. I watched her work with students at EMU Snow Health Center and was always impressed with how dedicated she was in helping others and never judged others. She was loved by all of her coworkers. We have all missed her sweet smile.”
In addition to Nance and her dealings with our healthcare system, both as a nurse and patient, I have met and often been well cared for (after a heart attack and broken hip) by numerous other good nurses and medical workers. Sure, among all such people, there are undoubtedly some that are not so good, but the main problem with our healthcare system is not the nurses and healthcare workers who help patients, but the very system itself. On this point, “The Good Nurse” and Sen. Bernie Sanders agree.
In the film Amy is a single mother of two daughters who works with the expectation that after working at the hospital for a year, she will receive health insurance. She badly needs it because she has a heart condition that puts her at high risk for a stroke, and she needs a heart transplant.
Two months ago speaking to his fellow senators, Bernie Sanders told them that we need to end a system where so many people are without health insurance or have to pay too much for it. “Health care is a human right,” he said, “not a privilege.” And “we must end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its citizens.”
He cited polls that supported his claim that “we have today in the United States the most inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive health care system in the world,” and he advocated “Medicare for All,” which “would cover dental care, vision, hearing aids, prescription drugs and home and community-based care.” He reminded other senators that in March, he and 15 Senate co-sponsors had introduced legislation that would provide for it and that “companion legislation in the House now has 122 co-sponsors.”
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Sanders also answered possible objections to his proposal. Too expensive? No, “it would be significantly LESS expensive than our current dysfunctional system because it would eliminate an enormous amount of the bureaucracy, profiteering, administrative costs and misplaced priorities inherent in our current for-profit system.” And, “we currently pay twice as much for healthcare as do the people of virtually any other country–all of which provide universal healthcare.” True, although taxes would go up, an individual’s overall cost would go down because “paying premiums, deductibles and co-payments to private health insurance companies” would no longer be necessary.
To explain why the U. S. has not yet enacted Medicare for All, Sanders said that “the answer is pretty simple. Follow the money. Since 1998, in our corrupt political system, the private health care sector has spent more than $10.6 billion on lobbying and over the last 30 years it has spent more than $1.7 billion on campaign contributions [to both major parties] to maintain the status quo.”
The “Good Nurse” film also implicitly criticizes the private health care administrators. At the end of the film, words on the screen tell us that although Charlie was a nurse for 16 years and that most of hospitals where he worked had suspicions about him, “none stopped him.” A New York Times review of the movie asks, “Were his employers too strapped for resources and personnel to notice [all the suspicious hospital deaths] or were they so scared of lawsuits that they selfishly pushed out Cullen to become another community’s problem without so much as a single bad letter of reference, let alone a call to outside authorities?”
The review suggests the answer to its own question by stating that both the film’s screenwriter and director were “raised in countries with nationalized health care,” and viewed “the United States medical system as a business centered on having patients, not helping them.”
At the end of the movie, more words on the screen tell us that the true-life Amy had heart surgery, that she lives in Florida with her daughters and grandchildren, and “she is still a good nurse.” Moreover, now, as we hover around one of our most contentious periods (mid-term elections), the words of this “good nurse,” remind us of something very important: very few people are all bad. When many of us progressives are tempted to see little good in anyone who votes in an anti-progressive way, we should look again and reconsider.
Toward the end of the film Amy, aware of some of Charlie’s killings, is brought in to talk to him, and she says to him that the discovery of his murders made her “forget what you did for me.” She confesses she will “never understand” how someone who has been “so kind and generous” to her “could hurt people.” As she says these things to him, she touches him as if to comfort him. “Good nurse,” indeed: empathetic and compassionate, even toward a serial killer.