Handmaidens and Battleaxes Download - Throughout history, the perception of nurses has ranged from wise women to witches, sots to ministering angels, handmaidens to battleaxes. The professional role of the nurse has changed dramatically. Originally the nurse held an independent, curative position in healing the sick. Most of this responsibility has since been lost. In its place, a profession has developed which, while demanding altruism and dedication, is locked into a supportive and secondary role to that of the medical profession.