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So What Exactly Is The Registered Nurse Symbol And What Does It Stand For?

Updated on January 28, 2011

So What Exactly Is The Caduceus Symbol?

To nurses, and health care professionals in general, the registered nurse symbol stands as a symbol of accomplishment for completing school. It has become known over the last century as representation for healthcare professionals as a whole for the care and dedication put into this profession. In nursing school the registered nurse symbol is symbolic of the caring nature in nursing. One may ask where did the registered nurse symbol come from? Read on to find out.

caduceus
caduceus

What Exactly Is The Caduceus Symbol And What Does It Mean?

In the nursing field the registered nurse symbol is used to display the accomplishment of completing nursing school. It has come to be a symbolic representation of how the nursing profession, and healthcare in general, is a caring and nurturing one for over the last century. The ever present registered nurse symbol in nursing school is displayed in the profession as a whole. But who knows what the registered nurse symbol really is? We do, so keep reading.

The registered nurse symbol, originally known as the Caduceus is a staff that was according to legend carried by the roman god messenger Hermes. This staff was topped with a pair of wings and had two winding serpents around it.

The symbol of the two snaked staff arose in early Babylonia and was thought to be related to other serpent symbols of wisdom, healing, fertility and also of the sun gods. Greek heralds carried this staff as well as ambassadors which was meant to convey Roman neutrality.

This symbol has been the insignia of the healthcare branch of the U.S. Army since 1902. The registered nurse symbol, or caduceus, is much used for this purpose much like any other symbol would be used for services such as the Postal Service, commerce or ambassador positions. Since the 16th Century it has replaced the Asclepius one serpent symbol as the image of choice for medicine.

Even though the registered nurse symbol is thought by some to be a negative mark on the profession, it's still a positive symbol for those of us who work as a registered nurse inside the field. No matter what the registered nurse symbol might seem like to others, to the common public it still remains an image from the nursing and medical fields in general.

Consequently stands as a positive symbolic representation for them and a sense of comfort. We nurses don't look at it and think of the negative connotations associated with it from ancient mythology, we regard it as being a image of pride.

Many "medical" organizations use a registered nurse symbol of a short rod entwined by two snakes and topped by a pair of wings, which is actually the caduceus or magic wand of the Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury), messenger of the gods, inventor of (magical) incantations, conductor of the dead and protector of merchants and thieves.

The registered nurse symbol or caduceus is used by other types of organizations, these are generally commercial or military in the U.S. Countries like New Zealand uses include pharmaceutical companies. A study confirmed that the connection of the caduceus and medicine was solidified around the 7th century A.D.

This was around the time Hermes had come to be associated with the study of alchemy. Alchemists were referred to as the sons of Hermes, as Hermetists or Hermeticists and as "practitioners of the hermetic arts".

The caduceus, or registered nurse symbol, was the magic staff of Hermes (Mercury), the god of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel and theft, and so was a symbol of heralds and commerce, not medicine. The words caduity & caduceus imply temporality, perishable and senility, while the medical profession espouses renewal, vitality and health.

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Caduceus

By regulation since 1902 it has been the insignia with the healthcare branch in the U.S. Army. The caduceus is much used like a symbolic representation of commerce, postal service, and ambassadorial positions and since the 16th cent. has largely replaced the one-snake symbolic representation of Asclepius as being a image of medicine.

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      carliedun92 3 years ago

      Most of us may not be really aware of the meaning of this symbol. Thanks for posting such informative lens.

    • OUTFOXprevention1 profile image

      OUTFOXprevention1 4 years ago

      Great info on the symbol. Thanks for the lens.