By: Sherry Michaels Perry Licensed Nurse Practitioner and Medical Historian
As a nurse of 32 years, I have seen people join the profession for a number of reasons. The most common of these reasons is the desire to help people and make a difference in their lives. I have also met nurses who freely admitted that the only reason they became a nurse was to marry a doctor. Some of them became nurses because they thought they were going to make big money and it was going to be like Greys Anatomy. I think these reasons cover almost everyone who has become a nurse. But there is a small subset of people who became a nurse so it would be easier for them to practice their real profession……serial killer!
Enter Amelia Dyer, aka the Ogress of Reading who is believed to have killed over 400 infants starting around 1869. She was trained as a nurse in Victorian England and she opened a “baby farm” at her home. She would accept unwanted infants from typically impoverished families and sell them to people who could not have children of their own. She had two children of her own and there is no mention of a husband. Gradually the community became aware that there was a high mortality rate at her farm and she was convicted of negligence and sentenced to six months hard labor. When she was released she returned to the farm and the deaths continued. She was finally stopped and convicted of murder when the corpse of a bagged infant was found in the Thames with evidence linking it to Dyer. It was discovered during the trial that she had a long history of mental illness with multiple hospitalizations. She was hanged by the neck till dead on June 10th 1896.
We move on to Jane Toppans, aka Jolly Jane who confessed to killing 33 of her patients in 1901. She would inject them with a lethal dose of morphine and then climb into bed with them and hold them till they died. She admitted during her trial that she found this to be sexually thrilling and that it was her goal to kill more people than anyone else in the world. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of her life in an asylum.
Genene Jones was another so-called angel of mercy who killed 60 infants and children from 1977-1982. She would inject her young charges with digoxin, heparin and succinylcholine then “discover” them in distress and save them, all the while basking in the praise of everyone who thought she was a hero. She was convicted of one murder and sent to prison and when it was discovered by the DA that she was going to be released in 2018 due to prison overcrowding she was tried for another murder in 2017. This prevented her release. It is unknown exactly how many children she killed because the hospital administration “misplaced” a large amount of the records for the time period she worked there.
Orville Lynn Majors who between 1993-1995 killed 130 patients that he believed to be whiny or demanding. He stated that he believed all elderly patients should be “gassed”. He was convicted and sentenced to 360 years in prison.
According to Psychology Today, nurses who kill prefer to work the night shift when there are fewer people around. They do not like anyone else to check on their patients and tend to complain excessively about what a burden their patients are. They seem to crave attention and love to respond to patient emergencies. Of course this is not an iron clad description and can likely describe a number of perfectly wonderful nurses.