The Seattle Times editorial board got it right in their recent Culture Change Needed at Western State piece of April 10, 2016
Their critical look at Western State shines a much needed light on the dark practice of failing to protect the nurses, psychiatric technicians, counselors, doctors, and other workers from workplace violence.
Intimidation and assault of nurses and other care workers by out of control mental health patients must stop.
The number of injuries, the seriousness of the injuries, the human resources lost because of callous disregard for the safety of the workers at Western State is outragous.
Several years ago our office represented a nurse at western state who was severely beaten by a western state psychiatric patient who was easily a foot taller than her and twice her weight.
Her injuries were so severe that the Department of Labor and Industries ultimately agreed that she would never work again because of the injuries from her beating to include the severe mental health issues she faced as a result of being afraid to return to work at a place with such an unrestrained culture of violence.
Battered bruised and left for dead she has recovered now thanks to the help she got from her labor and industries case, but she will never work again and she will never trust the administration at Western State Hospital.
The workers at Western State need protection and they need it now. They need protection from the violent patient population and they need protection from the administration which has proven themselves to be completely unhelpful. It was good to see Governor Inslee step up and fire the Chief at Western State Hospital, following the Seattle Time’s criticism of how the agency was run. Whether their focus on bad administration and too much wasted money will correct the culture of fear and violence remains to be seen.
The editorial board got it right again when they focused on low staffing levels as one of the most problematic situations facing Western State. If you can’t get good nurses, doctors and other health care professionals to stay, then Western State can’t properly treat the patients. Hospital psychiatrist Dr,.Joseph Wainer told the Seattle Times that “After an assault, staff can become frightened of patients. They never really get over it. Many of the injured workers end up leaving the hospital.
This callous disregard for the safety of nurses and other workers at Western State Hospital is another cost to a system which should be concentrating their expenses helping their patient population not fighting off another law suit because of their neglect for worker safety. Currently Western State pays out approximately 2 million dollars a year in medical and time loss benefits. They average over 100 violent injured worker claims per year. This has got to stop.
Nursing, technician, and counselor work is dangerous enough with injuries from lifting, tripping, and other unavoidable hazards. Adding assault to this is list is unconscionable.