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 registered nurse symbol come from? Read on to find out.
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. 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.
Since 1902 the Caduceus, or registered nurse symbol, has been the insignia of the U.S.Army’s medical branch. Much like any symbol that stands as a representation for things such as commerce, postal or any other government service, this symbol has stood for medicine since the sixteenth century when it replaced the staff of Asclepius, a one serpent symbol, as the image of choice for medicine.
Some people see the registered nurse symbol or Caduceus as a negative symbol for the profession, but even still, it’s a positive symbol of caring for those of us in the profession. 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. This goes on to give the public a comforting feeling as they know how it is linked to healthcare in general. 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.
A lot of medical organizations use the Caduceus, or registered nurse symbol, of two winding serpents around a staff, topped by two wings, which is the staff carried by the Greek god messenger hermes. This symbol was the protector of merchants and thieves, and conductor of the dead. 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 confirmed that the connection of the caduceus and medicine was solidified around the 7th century A.D. A study by Friedlander confirms this impression. 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 & caducous imply temporality, perishableness and senility, while the medical profession espouses renewal, vitality and health.
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