To nurses, and healthcare 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 nurse symbol come from? Read on to find out.
The nursing 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. It was a symbol of fertility, wisdom, and was also a symbol of the sun gods. Carried by Greek heralds and ambassadors, this staff was meant as a symbol of neutrality pertaining to the Romans.
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 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 nurse inside the field. No matter what the registered nurse symbol might seem like to others, to the common public it still remains a image from the nursing and medical fields in general, and 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” organisations use a 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. Its meaning is ‘heralds staff’ from the greek word karykeion. Itself based on the word ‘eruko’ meaning control or restrain.
It is interesting to see that most of organisations using this registered nurse symbol are generally either commercial or military (or American). New Zealand examples include drug and pharmaceutical companies. A study by Friedlander confirms this impression. The link between the caduceus of Hermes (Mercury) and medicine seems to have arisen by the seventh century A.D., when Hermes had come to be linked with alchemy. Alchemists were referred to as the sons of Hermes, as Hermetists or Hermeticists and as “practitioners of the hermetic arts”. There are clear occult associations with the caduceus.
The magic staff of Mercury, otherwise known as Hermes, was the Caduceus. Associated today as the registered nurse symbol. Back in the time of Hermes this symbol was an image for heralds and commerce, not medicine. The other words associated with this symbol were caduity, imply temporality, and senility. While the nursing profession touts vitality, renewal, and health.