Two months ago, while chatting with a custodian on a Western State Hospital ward, nurse Dagmar Jackson was attacked by one of the psychiatric patients there.
"She went straight for my face," said Jackson, who stands 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 108 pounds.
Jackson recalls her glasses being knocked off and nails clawing her face. She doesn't remember the several times she was struck, or the choking. The custodian finally pulled the attacker off.
"If it hadn't been for him, they would have taken me out of there on a stretcher," Jackson said.
Now, she and other workers at the state's two mental hospitals told lawmakers that they need more staff, more training and more equipment to deal with an increasingly dangerous workplace.
The Department of Social and Health Services, which runs the two facilities, agrees. Despite safety plans, violence-prevention training and other efforts, DSHS says, worker injuries at both Eastern State Hospital at Medical Lake and Western State Hospital at Steilacoom have risen since 2000.
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