In the Spring of 2004 there were many European, International and Global Nursing Organisations. However, when it came to psychiatric nursing, unlike so many other specialist nursing groups, it was clear we lacked not just an Organisation but also a representative voice.
Two psychiatric nurses from Malta and the Netherlands sought the interest of other national psychiatric nursing organisations to start a network. This resulted in a group called the Psychiatric Nursing Work Group (PNWG) that first met October 2005 in Amsterdam.
At that meeting the decision was taken to transform the group into an association and with the name ‘Horatio: European Psychiatric Nurses’. In April 2006 the Association was formally established and in May 2006 the second meeting took place in Prague. The network increased rapidly and currently has membership from most European countries.
Some members are individuals; some are representatives of an International Organisation within the field of psychiatric or mental health nursing or the psychiatric sections in their national nursing associations. We also have institutional memberships, such as libraries or universities. We liaise with organisations beyond Europe as well as mental health groups representing both carers and patients with mental health problems.
Much discussion took place with those first participants at the inaugural meeting in Amsterdam in 2005. It was decided that a European association representing psychiatric nurses needed to have a specific identity. Being yet another organisation with an acronym was not going to do the job. After much debate the organisation’s first General Secretary, Ber Ommen, suggested the name of Horatio.
This is a character in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, a man who is the king’s counselor, his confidant and someone who stood by his side through both his happy and dark moments. Hamlet, the king, was a troubled man and he choose only Horatio to be his friend and help him with the struggles of his inner life.
Hamlet wanted Horatio in that role In the end Hamlet died, badly, but felt that he had discovered the meaning of his life – ‘To be, or not to be’, with Horatio’s help.
The group felt that this character and his position reflected very much the role of the psychiatric nurse and the position they often had to adopt between the patient and their world. In daily practice nurses are often confronted with patients similar to Hamlet, finding it difficult to live with different realities.
The name of Horatio: European Psychiatric Nurses was adopted because it gave the organisation an aspirational title, not just a series of letters.