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Mock gore artist helps NAIT students prep for careers in health care

Michele Schlodder works as a technologist at NAIT’s Centre for Advanced Medical Simulation, where part of her role is creating gory, hyper-realistic scenarios that mimic health-care emergencies.

'The more realistic the simulation is, the better prepared students are'

A NAIT EMT student sports a set of fake wounds for a training scenario. (Michele Schlodder)

Blood, vomit and amniotic fluid — it's all part of a day's work for Michele Schlodder.

The former paramedic is a technologist at NAIT's Centre for Advanced Medical Simulation, where she creates hyper-realistic training scenarios that mimic health-care emergencies.

She does moulage: using makeup to create gory wounds to go along with the scenarios.

From bedsores to gunshot wounds, Schlodder said the fake injuries are pretty convincing. Many of them feature fake blood, while others might make use of Q-tips to mimic bones sticking out of a laceration.

"I had to make an ulcer a while ago. I added a bit of blood and all of a sudden, it was disgusting," Schlodder told CBC's Radio Active.

Fake injuries like these can be created with the help of some makeup and fake blood. (Michele Schlodder)

The simulations engage all of the senses, including smell, with aromas of vomit or day-old urine filling the air, depending on the situation. Sometimes the imitation scents can be even worse than the real ones, Schlodder said.

After working as a paramedic for 10 years, she's seen her fair share of nasty injuries in the flesh. If she isn't familiar with a particular injury, Schlodder will do some research to ensure her faux version is as accurate as possible. 

"The more realistic the simulation is, the better prepared students are for real-life situations," said Schlodder, who has been at NAIT — the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology — for a year.

"They've already experienced this fear or upset, and if they experience that in real life, they'll have the tools to properly manage it."

Michele Schlodder, a technologist at NAIT's Centre for Advanced Medical Simulation, uses makeup to create fake injuries, which is known as moulage. (Michele Schlodder)

Greg Cruikshank is a second-year student in NAIT's advanced care paramedic program. 

He said the simulations are crucial practice for performing on the job.

"Things may be slightly different, but the techniques and the way you command yourself … the instinct side of it — those remain because you've nurtured them in these situations," he said. 

Still, simulation scenarios can only do so much to prepare students for 911 calls in the real world. 

"You're feeling scared. You're anxious … let it happen," Cruikshank said. "Then you take a breath and realize, I'm not here to be anxious. I'm here to … save this person's life."

Listen to Radio Active with host Adrienne Pan, weekday afternoons on CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM/740 AM in Edmonton. Follow the show on Twitter: @CBCRadioActive.

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