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Battleaxe Nurse

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"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 experimental 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 Monster 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 may be subverting the Hospital Hottie trope — rather than conform to 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 a hospital. It is, sadly, Truth in Television 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 rather 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), and sometimes she's actually right. In British works, she almost certainly has the title Matronnote  and is played by Hattie Jacques (who actually was a Red Cross nurse during World War II). This type of Matron figure was also popular in older Australian series.

A subtrope is the Triage Tyrant. Compare Dr. Jerk and Orderlies are Creeps for other hospital staff you don't want to cross. Also check into Bedlam House, where all the nurses are like this.

Not to be confused with Combat Medic or Martial Medic.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Katherine from Gregory Horror Show. A 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.
  • Rei Shimizu from Killer Killer initially seems like the Only Sane Man at Ongō Hospital, where the doctors are all obsessed with different internal organs. She's also so beautiful that the protagonist, Takumi, passes out from Love at First Sight upon meeting her. And then it turns out that she's an absolutely monstrous Serial Killer who uses her victims as hosts for parasites and then kills them to retrieve the resulting spawn. Shimizu is also a host herself, and it's played for all the Fan Disservice in the world. When she's caught, she unleashes a huge amalgamation of parasites in a last-ditch attempt to kill Takumi.
  • 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.
  • Tokyo Ghoul features one in the side story Pinto. Tsukiyama introduces Chie to a beautiful nurse hopelessly in love with one of the doctors and constantly harassed by one of her elderly patients. Later on, it's revealed that she regularly beats the old man and steals gifts from him, knowing that he won't remember the abuse later on. When her reputation is threatened, she murders the old man and claims to have failed to save him from a Ghoul attack. It earns her the admiration of her coworkers and the affections of the doctor she'd been crushing on.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: The milder version appears in Doug Moench's 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 one story, the Crime Doctor had a Brawn Hilda nurse named Nurse Rench whose duties included subduing unwilling patients and dealing with snooping superheroes. Given the Crime Doctor is an actual physician who prides himself on his medical skills, it is unlikely he would have employed her if she was not also a qualified nurse.
  • Daredevil: Nurse Lois from Frank Miller's 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.
  • Fables: 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.
  • Ghost Rider: During Jason Aaron's run, Ghost Rider fights an army of these at some point.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) fanfiction Asylum, Lust is a nurse. 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, JoAnn, 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 Abigail Lemon in Ruby and Nora is an exaggeration of this.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The uber-example of a comic version would be Hattie Jacques' character in the various Carry On films.
  • Cloud Atlas: A scary one runs the nursing home where Cavendish is confined.
  • Doctor... Series:
    • Doctor in the House (1954) has Sister Virtue, who has no time for medical students or disruption in her ward:
      Sister Virtue: Well, I do not like students, however, I am forced to put up with you. But I warn you, I stand no nonsense in my ward. Is that clear?
    • Matron from Doctor in Clover becomes one the second she takes over from Miss Bobsover, ordering the nurses about and complaining about the smallest of errors they make:
      Matron: Now, get this clear, everyone, nurses and patients. You are not here to enjoy yourselves; you are here to get better. And better you are going to get!
  • In Double Indemnity, Phyllis was the nurse for her (then future) husband's first wife and cared for her. "Cared" meaning "killing her by giving her hypothermia".
  • Foxy Brown's boyfriend has a nurse who doesn't take kindly to his state of arousal after Foxy's visit.
  • Subverted in Heavy Trip. The head nurse of the psychiatric hospital in which Turo works is very strict and strong personality, but she has her heart in the right place and is impressed on how Turo found heavy metal pacified Oula on his violent bouts.
  • And then there's the unforgettable Nurse Diesel played by Cloris Leachman in the Mel Brooks' classic High Anxiety, one of the most memorable parodies of the trope.
    Nurse Diesel: Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup.
  • In The Initiation, Nurse Higgins rules over the inmates of the sanitarium with an iron fist.
  • In Monkey Shines quadriplegic Allan Mann's nurse Maryanne is a lazy, uncaring shrew who cares more about her pet bird than she does the patient she's supposed to be caring for and lets it fly around the house, not giving a damn about it attacking Allan, spends every day laying around the house doing nothing and complaining about everything Allan does, inadvertently injuring him, and whenever he complains about his poor treatment, she calls him an Ungrateful Bastard. She quits after her bird dies, though not before lounging around in the house for another week.
  • Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
  • The Right Stuff has Nurse Murch, at the hospital where the potential astronauts are being tested. She has a moustache, and she likes torturing the candidates. She seems to especially like it when they enjoy it, too.
  • In Serial Killing 4 Dummys, Casey gets grabbed by one of the second type at the old folks home who mistakes him for Rose's grandson and marches him inside to talk to her.
  • Nurse Davis from The Snake Pit is mean and petty and in one scene essentially provokes the mental patient she hates into a relapse.
  • Matron from Twice Round the Daffodils is a typical British hospital Matron of The '60s - no-nonsense, old, and not afraid to put patients and staff alike in their place.

  • 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.
  • 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."
  • A few show up in the works of Agatha Christie, but they're not so much jerkasses as they are conniving murderers trying to get rid of their patient's wives to marry the widower.
  • 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.
  • Nurse Maria Bulwell in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Taint, who actively despises her charges, both as a group because she sees mental illness as a sign of weakness, and individually for unique reasons. (She has a bit more sympathy for the ex-soldier, since fighting in World War II is an "acceptable" reason to have a breakdown, although her view of him as a hero turns out to be as inaccurate as her contemptuous opinions of the others.) When one of the patients is murdered, she's darkly fascinated to realise she doesn't actually care.
  • 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.
  • In The Laundry Files short story "Down on the Farm", 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.
  • Annie Wilkes in Misery, who has the bonus of being a Yandere Loony Fan.
  • Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
  • Betty Mac Donald describes several such in The Plague & I, her fictionalized memoir of her six months in a TB sanitarium.
  • In Ivan Yefremov's Razor's Edge there's a bit character whom a protagonist (a qualified Super Doc himself, but he cannot do Self-Surgery due to trauma location) visits to see a serious abscess on his hand. The woman evacuates the boil in the most painful and traumatic way, babbling about the need to man up and tough it out, until the hero fied-shrinks her into admitting to slipping into sadism due to stress.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Father Brown: Matron Sophia in "The Angel of Mercy". She runs the nursing home with an iron hand and shows no shred of sympathy to any of her charges.
  • Martin discusses one in Frasier. When he was in the hospital after being shot in the hip, he was cared for by Sister Joselia, "the scrubbing nun" and "terror of Ward 3", who he still has nightmares about years later.
  • 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.
  • Not as extreme as some of the examples on this list, but The Golden Girls had Nurse DeFarge (played by Edie McClurg) in its final season episode "Beauty and the Beast". The episode's B-plot revolved around a scenario where Sophia fakes being injured so she can be tended to by the aforementioned Nurse in a wheelchair.
  • Averted, oddly enough, with Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan of M*A*S*H. 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.
  • Millennium (1996) 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.
  • Mrs. Raven from the British sitcom My Hero (2000). 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.
  • Once Upon a Time: The occasionally seen psych ward of Storybrooke General Hospital is a dungeonlike basement with a single lobotomised-looking hulking orderly and presided over by an impeccably dressed stern nurse who is clearly modelled on Nurse Ratched, and given the nature of the town, might actually be her. After their one patient, a mindwiped Belle, is released the townspeople mostly use the ward as a prison for people who can't be held indefinitely at the Sheriff's station, making her also an example of Wardens Are Evil.
  • Supernatural
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Many, Many Monkeys", Claire Hendricks is a mild example. She is professional and diligent in her job, but she is cold and offhand with patients, never paying them more attention than is strictly necessary. After the plague of blindness spreads, Claire comes to realize that she gradually lost her compassion and came to view patients as numbers with charts as opposed to individuals with life stories.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Season 6's "Forgotten People" has the Rangers dealing with the corrupt administrator of a nursing home that was a front for a secret illegal testing facility wherein she is trying to put variations of an outlawed Alzheimer's drug on the market after an old friend of Trivette's on the Dallas Cowboys was murdered for trying to tell him what was really going on. The scary part about her nurses and orderlies? They're all ex-cons!

    Professional Wrestling 


    Video Games 
  • Alice in the Mirrors of Albion has Mildred, the nurse who runs the local hospital, is so menacing that the citizens would rather try questionable folk remedies than go to Nurse Mildred for treatment.
  • Nurse Nina of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is a large Russian woman who loves to openly mock her patients. One of her sidequests involves finding a suitor for her, which requires you to damage them with specific elemental types in order to test whether or not they are "strong enough for Nina's love".
  • Endless Nightmare have nurse zombies in the second game, who weeps loudly if left idle (and can be heard a whole room away). But if you're in sight, they rush at you clawing away like crazy, easily ripping off chunks of your health in no time.
  • Isle of the Dead have the zombie nurses in the laboratory, and they're among the most dangerous enemies in-game. Let them sneak up on you and you suffer a One-Hit Kill.
  • Not Dying Today have zombie nurses as enemies, who attacks you either by slashing with scalpels, or throw syringes at you which can paralyze you with an Interface Screw, blurring your vision long enough as other zombies surround you.
  • Skullgirls: Valentine at first seems to be a ninja nurse who is full of Fanservice, but then her Morally Ambiguous Doctorate tendencies become clear, with her use of medical equipment to fight and constant desire to experiment on others.
  • The Medivac from StarCraft II is a cross between this trope and a Chuck Yeager, with a dose of Black Comedy thrown in. Turns out, teaching regular Medics how to fly transports will turn them into callous, cynical surgeons. Listen for yourself.

    Visual Novels 


    Western Animation 
  • Nurse Claiborne, a recurring villain in Codename: Kids Next Door, is both this and an Evil Chef. With her first appearance in Operation: P.I.N.K.E.Y.E., she was once the school nurse at Gallagher Elementary School. At first, she seemed sweet and friendly and her apple crumbles were popular among the students, even Numbuh Two... until 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. At the end of the episode, she escaped and was fired from her school nursing job and had no success at finding other nursing jobs anywhere in the country. However, she didn't learn her lesson; her second appearance in "Operation: H.O.M.E." 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.)
  • F is for Family has Beatrice, the authoritarian nurse at the local hospital. She is particularly unpleasant towards Frank but does not like any of the Murphy family except Big Bill, and her idea of nursing is to medicate every problem with large amounts of morphine.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Vicky is this in the episode "Open Wide and Say Aaagh!" as she is determined to make Timmy's time in the hospital a nightmare.
  • The Flintstones had one of these show up when Pebbles was born. A few other times, too.
  • Futurama has the robotic Nurse Ratchet, an obvious parody of Nurse Ratched.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Nurse Ratched



Bluebeard unwittingly chooses a control freak of a nurse as his wife.

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