9.07 Standard Precautions

Medical Education

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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.

Precautions against exposures of particularly dangerous infections: Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Harvard medical and dental students should (1) attend to, (2) immediately report and seek immediate care for (3) plan follow up of all incidents of exposure to blood and bodily fluid of the following natures: parenteral (needlestick or cut); mucous membrane (splash to eyes, nose or mouth); or cutaneous (contact with blood or body fluids on ungloved hands or other skin surfaces that may be cut, chapped, abraded, or affected by active dermatitis).

Potential benefit of prophylactic intervention for all of these infections is time-dependent. For maximal benefit, intervention SHOULD BE INITIATED IN THE INITIAL HOURS AFTER EXPOSURE, particularly after exposure to HIV.

(1) Attend to the Exposure

  • If there is a wound from a sharp object, wash it with soap and water and apply direct pressure if it is bleeding.
  • Flush exposed mucus membranes with water or saline for 15 minutes.
  • If clothing is contaminated from a chemical, biological or radiation spill, remove it and wash the exposed area.

(2) Immediately report and Seek Care

  • Immediately notify your supervisor and seek medical attention at your clinical site.
  • Specific instructions for your clinical site are available from your supervisor and online at the Harvard University Health Services website.

(3)Plan Follow-Up

  • Call the Medical Area clinic during weekdays 9am-5pm, (617) 432-1370, t0 plan follow up care with your primary physician or their designee at Harvard University Health Services.
  • After hours, weekends, and holidays, you may call HUHS Urgent Care at (617) 495-5711 to arrange follow up at HUHS.

If you would like additional procedural advice, 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.

These instructions are included in the pamphlet “Protecting Yourself and Your Patients from Infection: Guidelines for Harvard Medical and Dental Students,” available through the Registrar’s Office, or in the “Pocket Guide to the Wards” handbook, available from the Office of Student Affairs. For more information, including contact information at Harvard’s teaching sites, visit the HUHS website: 



Last updated on 8/17/15