Two of the most common and universally known health care or medical symbols are the caduceus and the Staff of Aesculapius, according to Premium Care Internal Medicine. These two symbols are often confused with one another.
The Staff of Aesculapius is the traditional symbol for the health care professions, according to the Premium Care Internal Medicine website. It is an ancient symbol that is derived from Greek medical practices. Temples dedicated to the Greek god Asklepios were used as health centers and spas. The symbol for Asklepios was a serpent entwined around a long staff. Its association with the god led to it becoming the standard health care symbol for many years. As of 2015, this snake-entwined staff continues to be a common health care symbol across the world.
Another common health care symbol is the caduceus. Like the Staff of Aesculapius, it is derived from ancient Greece. However, its use as a health care symbol is much more recent. The caduceus was originally associated with Hermes, a god of heralds and messengers. The symbol for Hermes was a staff with two snakes twined around it, sometimes with wings attached to the knob of the staff.
In the 19th century, it was frequently used as a printer's mark. It was also used as a symbol of neutrality in the battlefield, especially for stretcher-bearers. Because it was used in medical publications, it began to be confused with the Staff of Aesculapius, and its usage by military medical practitioners encouraged the association. In 1902, the U.S. Army Medical Corps adopted the caduceus as its symbol. This popularized the use of the caduceus as a medical symbol in the United States.