TV Tropes Needs Your Help
View Kickstarter Project
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here
and discuss here
If Mr. McMurphy doesn't want to take his medication orally, I'm sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way. But I don't think that he would like it.
Nurses, like doctors, are usually
good in fiction. After all, a person who works to save lives can't possibly be evil, right?
Not in the case of the Battleaxe Nurse.
The Battleaxe Nurse is an incredibly sadistic and cruel nurse, often older (and uglier
) than her more angelic counterpart, and Always Female
. She gets her kicks from kicking patients, the weaker the better. If she isn't already the head nurse, her cruelty gives her a degree of power over both the patients and the other nurses. Anybody who goes against her ends up injured or worse, and she jumps at the chance to give a particularly rebellious patient a lobotomy. Sometimes the Battleaxe Nurse has a hint of the Mad Doctor
in her, especially if she decides to test interesting new drugs on her helpless patients.
In terms of her origins, the Battleaxe Nurse has many. First is the Subversion
of what the audience expects - nurses are supposed to be caring right? This type of subversion is similar in its origins to the Evil Clown
trope - clowns are supposed to be associated with joy, and thus it creates a rich irony to associate them with terror. Likewise for the Battleaxe Nurse.
Another origin is by subverting the Hospital Hottie
trope - rather than conform to male fantasy, the Battleaxe Nurse crushes it.
On a deeper level, the concept of a sadist nurse explores a very real fear that many patients have going into hospital. It is, sadly, Truth In Tropes
that some of the most vulnerable people are badly treated while they are weakened and in the care of strangers. By creating characters in media that express this fear, negative emotions can be explored from a safe distance.
The most famous example of this trope, if not the Trope Maker
, is Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
There's also a milder version more common in comedy. This version is still hugely unsympathetic and enjoys having power over the patients and other nurses, but can still say with some justification that everything she's doing is for the patients' own good
(although the patients are unlikely to see it like that). In British works, she almost certainly has the title Matron and is played by Hattie Jacques (who actually was a Red Cross nurse during W.W.II). This type of Matron figure was also popular in older Australian series.
A subtrope is the Triage Tyrant
- Katherine from Gregory Horror Show. A rather perverted pink lizard nurse with a needle the size of herself which she.....seems to REALLY love draining all the blood out of people with.
- Mako Yakumaru from Rosario + Vampire has an injection fetish. Her injections temporarily turn people into her slaves, and proceed to help her carry out homicidal Antithesis missions.
- Played straight and including a souped-up Mad Doctor version in an episode of the Sorcerer Hunters anime. A hospital run by two women who use the facility as a cover for torturing male patients because they've been betrayed by men in the past.
- Prison doctor Rei Takashima of the titular Deadman Wonderland, though calling her "doctor" is putting it nicely. She gets sadistic pleasure removing the body parts of fully conscious Deadmen when they lose a Gladiator Game. She happily skips into the Moral Event Horizon when gleefully removing the right eyeball of Badass former cop, Senji Kiyosama after losing to Troubled, but Cute protagonist, Ganta. She's last seen creating a hideous abomination of combined forgeries (fake Deadmen who were former prisoners brainwashed into becoming drugged up killing machines) before being unceremoniously killed by the Ax-Crazy Wretched Egg.
- Nurse Lois from Frank Miller's Daredevil: Born Again story arc is a gruff, intimidating nurse who supervises Nick Manolis' recovery. She's also a mob enforcer for the Kingpin who breaks Ben Urich's fingers and kills Manolis.
- During Jason Aaron's run in Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider fights an army of these at some point.
- Fables has Mrs. Sprat. It turns out she became a nurse out of immense jealousy towards all the other beautiful Fables, for the chance to have them on their backs and completely at her mercy.
- The milder version appears in Doug Moench's Batman run as Nurse Charlotte, who takes Harvey Bullock's cigars away and criticises his diet. Impressed by a tough woman who doesn't take any crap from him, he asks her on a date, and she accepts. She then gets shot by a mugger.
- In the Fullmetal Alchemist AU fanfiction Asylum, Lust is a nurse. Rather predictably, she's also this. "I wouldn't be so foolish as to pin me with the stereotypes of my profession, if I were you... I don't feel compassion, and especially not for the condemned."
- John Gafe deals with one from canon in the Emergency! fic "Complications". He is confused and recovering from encephalitis. He also still struggles with a badly abusive childhood and a mild case of Asperger's, and when the nurse wants to examine him, he panics and fights. Her answer is to slap him and restrain him, which only terrifies him more,due to his background, and sedate him.Roy,Jo Ann,Dr.Brackett and Dixie are all outraged. The nurse is fired and the Desotos take John to recover with them. That said, Roy is still kind and helpful to the nurse when he comes upon her in a car accident later.
- Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- Nurse Davis from The Snake Pit is mean and petty and in one scene essentially proves the mental patient she hates into a relapse.
- The uber-example of a comic version would be Hattie Jacques' character in the various Carry On films.
- The interrogation scene in The English Patient probably qualifies.
- The Right Stuff has a Battleaxe Nurse conducting tests on the potential astronauts.
- The Mel Brooks film High Anxiety has Cloris Leachman as the rather grotesque Nurse Diesel.
- Foxy Brown's boyfriend has a nurse who doesn't take kindly to his state of arousal after Foxy's visit.
- As mentioned above, Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- Annie Wilkes in Misery, who has the bonus of being a Yandere Loony Fan.
- In "Down on the Farm", a Laundry short story by Charles Stross, the Laundry's Bedlam House is run by a deranged, demonic 1960s mainframe called "Matron", and three robot "Sisters" slaved to it. As in Futurama, one of the nurses is called Nurse Ratchet.
- The senior nurse in Going Postal, who seems to be a little hazy on the difference between a hospital and a prison. Dr Lawn, supposedly in charge of the hospital, claims that the only way to deal with the nursing staff is to throw a handful of chocolates in one direction and then run in the other as fast as possible.
- Assignment Gestapo by Sven Hassel. Tiny falls in love with the (so-called) milder version, because she's the first woman he's met who's tough enough not to take any abuse from him.
- Head Nurse Noakes, from the "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish" segment of Cloud Atlas. Bonus points for the film version, who is portrayed by Hugo Weaving.
- Willis Sr.'s housekeeper Deirdre Donovan is a mild comic version of this in Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince. Early in the book, she bars all visitors to the house (including Lori's cabin-feverish sons) when her employer has a severe head cold. Later, Bree recounts a series of phone messages to Lori, including these two: "Deirdre Donovan rang. She's given William the all-clear to attend church on Sunday. William rang. He will attend church on Sunday, with or without Deirdre Donovan's all-clear."
- Creator/Betty Mac Donald describes several such in The Plague & I her fictionalized memoir of her six months in a TB sanitarium.
- Dr. Pulaski, Beverly's short-lived replacement on Star Trek: The Next Generation, was pretty tough. You'd think that she was the one Captaining the whole ship.
- Supernatural had one of these as the Ghost of the Week in "Folsom Prison Blues" (S02, Ep19).
- Dexter's first victim was a mad nurse who slowly euthanized patients—willing or not.
- In the 4th season of Farscape, the We're So Screwed 3-parter had one of these torturing/testing Aeryn and her unborn child.
- While she is never referred to as a nurse, Tauza is presumably one of these. She is the only person to ever interact with Scorpius while he is a child and is said to be the one who treated him for heat delirium. She also enjoys tormenting him, including one occasion where she turns up the heat in the room (which he can't stand due to his hybrid physiology) and forces him to crawl to her to get water. When he says "please", she dumps it on the floor and hits him.
- Mrs. Raven from the British sitcom My Hero. Fond of such things as staging a fire drill just to torment geriatrics, hypnotizing patients into giving her their money, and blackmailing her boss to secure her position. At one point, upon gaining superpower, she goes on to become a multinational supervillain for an episode.
- She's also an administrator, not a nurse. God forbid her job should involve helping people.
- Averted, oddly enough, with Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan of Mash. While she was generally depicted, especially in the early seasons, as a humorless and short-tempered authoritarian in her interactions with the rest of the staff, her manner with the actual patients was always kind and caring.
- The nurse looking after Gage in the Emergency! episode "The Nuisance" is a mild one. She's grumpy, looks down on the paramedics, and just wants to yell and complain.
- Sister Evangelina in Call the Midwife falls into the second variety of Battleaxe: a stern nun-midwife who hides her absolute devotion to her patients' and fellow midwives' welfare behind a facade of grump, boss and snark.
- Millennium had a gender inverted example as its villain of the week in "Paper Dove". This one was a hospice nurse by day and stalked and killed hikers on the Appalachian Trail by night.
- Futurama has the robotic Nurse Ratchet, an obvious parody of Nurse Ratched.
- The Flintstones had one of these show up when Pebbles was born. A few other times, too.
- Nurse Claiborne, who first appeared in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode Operation: P.I.N.K.E.Y.E., was both this and an Evil Chef. A school nurse who seemed sweet and friendly, her apple crumbles were popular among the students, even Numbuh Two... Then it turned out that she was behind the mystery epidemic of pinkeye going around the school, simply so she could use the eye crust from her patients as topping for the crumbles. Unlike most examples of this Trope, Claiborne was very much capable in a fight, packing a water gun with highly concentrated conjunctivitis (pink-eye) germs. She escaped at the end of the episode, but didn't learn; her second appearance had her go into the cereal business by making the sweet bits from Rainbow Monkey dolls. Including one of Numbuh 3's most prized doll. Kuki was not amused. (On another note, Claiborne is one of the few villains who was regarded as insane even in-universe, which is hard to do, considering what the KND's Rogues Gallery is like; pretty much all of them would be labeled criminally insane if put into any remotely realistic context.)
- A 2006 Guardian article reports that a male nurse in an English hospital poisoned a bunch of patients just so he could impress people when he resuscitated them. Problem was, in two cases the resuscitation didn't work.
- There was also a story in the Toronto Star once about a young American nurse who fatally poisoned three patients (and never attempted to revive them) to impress her friends.
- There were four Austrian Nurses dubbed the Lainz Angels of Death who killed 49 elderly people by flooding their lungs with water.
- During the World Wars there were several horror stories going on in the front about sadistic nurses who enjoyed tormenting the wounded soldiers, some which apparently were true.