The Nurse spoilers follow.
Much like Netflix's The Good Nurse before it, the streaming platform's new Scandi mini-series The Nurse dramatises the disturbing true story of one rookie nurse's connection to a series of deaths at her hospital and how her crimes were brought to light.
In the new Netflix sleeper hit, Pernille (Fanny Louise Bernth) has just put on scrubs for her first job at a Denmark hospital much in need of some TLC, when she meets resident nurse extraordinaire Christina (Josephine Park).
"Everyone loves Christina here in Falster," Pernille is told. She's charming, charismatic and quickly takes nervous Pernille under her wing. "You won't find a better teacher," another nurse tells Pernille and after the pair save a patient who has gone into cardiac arrest, their colleagues label them 'The Dream Team'.
However, Pernille quickly realises that working the graveyard shift with Christina in the hospital is never a quiet one. Within the first episode of the four-part series, she has already spotted something suspicious in the room of a young patient who very suddenly died overnight.
The Nurse goes on to tell the story of how Pernille was crucial in uncovering Christina's actions, leading to her real-life conviction on four counts of attempted manslaughter.
The show bills the dramatised events as "the biggest murder case in Danish healthcare history", but what really happened to the two nurses at the heart of this true story?
The Nurse true story
Just as in The Nurse, the real Pernille Kurzmann and Christina Aistrup Hansen met at the Nykøbing Falster Hospital in Denmark, with Kurzmann fresh out of nursing school.
Based on Kristian Corfixen's book The Nurse: Inside Denmark's Most Sensational Criminal Trial, the show closely follows the nature of the real Hansen's crimes.
"I was very obsessed with making the portrait as close to reality as possible and at a certain point I realized that I couldn’t, I kind of had to let go of all the information and make it like a fictional character, because, I mean, I’ll never be able to make a complete, perfect portrait," Park told Nordic Watchlist.
"What was interesting for me was that Christina was extremely popular with people and they described her as extremely charismatic, great at her job, and she was very well liked among her colleagues."
"So I think, how can you be all of these things, and at the same time something is completely wrong? How do you kind of connect these conflicting character traits? So that was the interesting part for me, to play a whole character that was both nice and charismatic, and had this incredibly dark side."
The book is an intricately researched piece of journalism that's well worth a read for fans of the show. Here's the official book blurb:
The award-winning true-crime account of a Danish nurse accused of killing her patients - and an examination of the controversial evidence used against her.
In the early hours of March 1, 2015, Danish police received an alarming call from a nurse at a provincial hospital. She suspected her colleague, fellow nurse Christina Aistrup Hansen, of deliberately killing patients - and she feared it had just happened again. Soon, other coworkers revealed their own concerns about Hansen. Indeed, some had been harboring suspicions about her for years . . .
So why had no one come forward sooner? And with the alleged victims already cremated, where was the evidence? Could this all be a case of small-town gossip snowballing out of control? Drawing on police and autopsy reports, medical records, private correspondence, and testimony from key witnesses - as well as Hansen herself - Danish journalist Kristian Corfixen reconstructs the fateful night shift in which three patients died under mysterious circumstances, and the sensational trial it set in motion.
Originally published in Denmark, Corfixen's acclaimed investigation of a disturbingly complex case raises critical concerns about the trust we put in our caretakers, and the role of indicative evidence in criminal courts.
Hansen was held in high regard among her colleagues at the hospital, but during night shifts she administered patients with lethal doses of diazepam and morphine, only to then help save them after their condition suddenly nose-dived. When Kurzmann eventually raised the alarm, others at the hospital came forward and said they had long held similar suspicions.
The Nurse director Kasper Barfoed noted this fact as a major point of the production. "So many people suspected something or saw something — and yet it's the new nurse, the one who's in her first job who not only senses something is wrong, but who actually does something about it and risks everything," he told Netflix's Tudum.
"[Making the series] became a lot about trying to be loyal to Pernille and the situation she was in. We wanted the audience to be able to feel how difficult this is. It’s not just pushing a button and then you’re a whistleblower."
Speaking about how the true story intrigued him, Barfoed asked: "How could this take place over such a long time – when, after the whole thing was revealed, a lot of people seemed to have known about it or suspected it?
"That became the key we always went back to. It’s not about just a 'crazy' killer – it’s about, 'How does the system prevent us from speaking up or how does the system protect itself?'"
Following a case in city court that lasted nearly a month and involved more than 70 witnesses, Hansen was sentenced to a life imprisonment for the murders of patients Viggo Holm Petersen, Anna Lise Poulsen and Arne Herskov, and for the attempted murder of Maggi Margrethe Rasmussen.
However, as it couldn't be ruled out that other factors had led to the patients' deaths, she was instead convicted of four counts of attempted murder on appeal. Hansen's sentence was commuted to 12 years in 2017, and she was also stripped of her licence to practise as a nurse.
A court-ordered forensic psychological evaluation found that Hansen had histrionic personality disorder.
Mind notes that those with a histrionic personality disorder diagnosis may feel "very uncomfortable if [they] are not the centre of attention" or "feel that [they] have to entertain people".
Mind also observes that those who have the condition may "depend very heavily on being noticed, or are seeking approval so much that this affects [their] day-to-day living".
Its information page adds that as part of the condition, those with a histrionic personality disorder may be easily influenced by others, "make rash decisions" or "constantly seek, or feel dependent on, the approval of others".
Rethink Mental Illness' page on the condition notes that those living with histrionic personality disorder "may feel anxious about being ignored" or "may become bored with normal routines".
What happened to Pernille Kurzmann and Christina Aistrup Hansen?
Given that the real-life Christina Aistrup Hansen was first charged in 2016, she is still serving her sentence in a Danish prison and will be released in 2028.
While writing the book upon which The Nurse is based, Corfixen interviewed Hansen in prison and described her anger at the sentencing. She wrote how Hansen told her: "Many in here talk about one day reaching a point where you come to terms with your judgment. But I haven't gotten there yet."
While not much is known about Kurzmann, as she has continued to live a private life since giving her crucial testimony at Hansen's trial, she does still work at the Nykøbing Falster Hospital.
Before the credits roll on the final episode of The Nurse, a paragraph of text explains: "All nurses from the ER at that time have moved on to different jobs. Except one. Pernille Kurzmann still works as a nurse at Nykøbing Falster Hospital. Today her name is Pernille Kurzmann Lundén."
Kurzmann changed her name after she married her boyfriend Dr Niels Lunden, who is seen in The Nurse helping her to bring Hansen to justice. Kurzmann still lives in Nykøbing Falster with her children and has worked at the hospital since 2014 now.
In an interview to the Danish Nursing Council in 2020, she described her relationship with the staff at the hospital since Hansen's conviction.
She said: "I have the same bosses, and I actually like them quite a lot. I feel sorry for them because they had no tools or anything to do and intervene in the case.
"I have no doubt that they did their best to support me and their department. They were also caught in the schism between having to take care of me and also taking care of Christina, because she was innocent until proven guilty."
The Nurse is available to watch on Netflix.
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