9.07 Standard Precautions

Harvard medical and dental students working in the laboratory, in clinical simulations (such as teaching sessions that involve practice on volunteers or fellow students) or with patients should follow Standard Precautions at all times:

  1. Always wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer before and after touching a patient, after using the restroom and after touching a contaminated surface. Infections are caused by bacteria or viruses, which are MOST COMMONLY SPREAD BY UNWASHED HANDS.
  2. Consider all blood, all body fluids, and all mucous membranes or non-intact skin from ALL PATIENTS to be infectious.
  3. Wear gloves when exposure to blood, body fluids, mucous membranes, or non-intact skin may occur. Change your gloves and wash your hands after each procedure and before contact with another patient.
  4. Wear a mask and protective eyewear (or face shield) when blood or body fluids may splash into your face.
  5. Wear a fluid resistant gown during activity that may generate splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions or excretions.
  6. DO NOT RECAP NEEDLES OR SHARPS after use. Place all disposable sharps into puncture-proof containers immediately after use. Locate the designated container before you begin the procedure.
  7. Always use needle safety devices when available and activate the safety feature.

Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Protocol

First – Attend to the injury

For example, if there is a wound from a sharp object, wash it with soap and water and apply direct pressure if it is bleeding. If clothing is contaminated from a chemical, biological, or radiation spill, remove it and wash the exposed area. Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available when laboratory reagents and chemicals are used and may be a useful resource for immediate care. Be sure to inform your supervisor of the injury.

Second – Seek immediate medical attention at your clinical site
Your PCE or clinical supervisor has given you specific instructions for your site. If in doubt, you can also find the hospital-specific contact numbers for our 20 clinical sites below.
Note, when seeking immediate care in a hospital emergency department, medical and dental students should register using their Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP) Student Health Insurance Plan or other insurance. Do not register in the hospital emergency department as a hospital employee or you may be subject to higher bills than the copayment required by HUSHP or your other insurance.
Third – Plan any follow-up care with your primary care physician or their designee at HUHS within 48 hours
During weekdays, 9:00am-5:00pm, call the Medical Area Clinic at (617) 432-1370. After hours, weekends, and holidays, call HUHS Urgent Care at (617) 495-5711.
If you would like additional procedural advice, please call (617) 384-STIK (7845). This is a recorded message containing the pager number of the HUHS on-call physician. You may page the physician for procedural advice about the exposure and follow up care, rather than for medical advice. 

Students are also advised to notify their supervising house officer and the infection control office in the institution where the incident occurred.

For more information, including contact information at Harvard’s teaching sites, visit the HUHS website.

Last updated 12/5/18