Review: Violence on the rise at Western State Hospital

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- A startling new report says violence is on the rise inside Western State Hospital, and nurses working at the hospital say they're at risk.

An independent review found there were hundreds of assaults by patients on staff members in the last year.

Registered nurse Paul Vilja works at Western State and said violence is an everyday occurrence.

"As a nursing supervisor, I process those injury reports as they occur and I actually investigate them," he said.

Across the mountains at Eastern State Hospital in Spokane, registered nurse Sharon Silar says she and her coworkers are dealing with similar problems.

"It feels almost hopeless," she said. "There's nothing we can do."

The new report says there have been 412 patient-on-staff assaults at Western State this year, compared to 322 last year.

The report claims assaults have dropped in the last three years at Eastern State, but Silar said those numbers are likely not accurate.

"I have to say it's under reported," she said. "Even the staff feels it's not worth mentioning because no one hears us."

The numbers have special meaning to Silar because she was assaulted in June by a patient she was caring for.

"I turned my back to walk with her and that's when she assaulted me in the jaw, dislocated my jaw," she said. "I just cried. It breaks my heart that she got to the point where that's all she knew."

Western State chief executive Ron Adler released a statement in response to the report.

"Staff and patient safety are of vital importance to the state's psychiatric hospitals," the statement reads. "Every assault is a sobering event that has negative consequences for the victim, coworkers, and the hospital administration."

Nurses at both hospitals say they're looking forward to working with administrators to help reduce violence.

"We are caring for people who want to take care of the patients. We want to take care of them the best way we can," Silar said.