Blood buddies: Nursing, Theater join forces in disaster drill

Theater student preparing for her part

It was a scene set for Halloween at the Flagstaff Medical Center this morning, though it came a few days late. Multiple victims trailed into the emergency room with bruises, open wounds and protruding bones made of nothing more than liquid latex, fake blood, tongue depressors and makeup. But the drill they participated in was very real.

Fifty students from Northern Arizona University’s School of Nursing and nearly a dozen more from the Department of Theater teamed Friday to participate in the 2011 Arizona Statewide Vigilant Guard exercise.

The disaster preparedness exercise involved more than 250 agencies and 8,000 participants statewide under the scenario of a detonated nuclear device.

In Flagstaff, the exercise began with a moulage: theater students applied makeup to nursing students to simulate a wide range of wounds, including third-degree burns, lacerations, scrapes and bruises, and even some imbedded splintered wood.

The “injured” students were then transported to Flagstaff Medical Center for triage and treatment at the Emergency Department. Some were scanned with a Geiger counter, and at least one was tagged as “deceased” as she lay on the sidewalk outside the emergency room.

Other nursing students were sprayed for contaminants in a hazmat tent at the medical center—a chilly proposition on a windy, cool morning.

“The students will get to see what a disaster drill looks like,” said Linda Paul, associate clinical professor, before the exercise began. “They will observe how nurses and doctors triage patients and how a disaster is handled.”