Policy and Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Infectious Diseases

During the performance of clinical practice or research activities, students may have contact with patients or research participants with infectious diseases. This contact may place the student at risk for exposure to an infectious agent and/or may result in an infectious disease being transmitted to others. This policy has been established to address The Ohio State University, College of Nursing’s concern for protecting both students and clients from the risk of infectious diseases. The policy is in accordance recommendations of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and recognizes individual rights, voluntary testing, and the confidentiality of test results of all involved. The document is organized in relation to: (1) Prevention, (2) Responsibilities of the student in the care of infected patients, and (3) Post-exposure safety measures.


Students can be reasonably protected from the risk of contracting and transmitting an infectious disease in the course of nursing practice with appropriate education, skills training, and immunizations.


Students will receive printed materials and oral instruction on potential infectious hazards, risk behaviors, and preventive measures in accordance with the current guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  In addition, students are expected to have the necessary basic science content (anatomy/physiology of the immune system), pathophysiology, epidemiology, and standard precaution information necessary to provide safe care to patients and protection for themselves.

Adherence to standard precautions

Students are expected to understand and strictly adhere to Standard Precaution guidelines and infection control practices as established by the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to reduce the risk of contact, droplet and airborne transmission of pathogenic microorganisms.

Mandatory vaccination/testing

Undergraduate and Graduate students must meet:

  • The Ohio State University vaccination requirements.
  • College of Nursing health requirements prior to contact with a clinical

Influenza: Influenza vaccination is now required of all undergraduate and nursing graduate students as part of their clinical compliance requirements. Clinical agencies have the right to refuse student placement for non-compliance.

Note: Students who are pregnant or think they are pregnant should report their condition to the nurse in Preventive Medicine at the Student Health Clinic. Some health requirements may be waived for pregnant students or for individual students whose situations may warrant such action. In general, pregnant women should be advised to avoid live vaccines and to avoid becoming pregnant within 28 days of having received one (no harm to the fetus has been reported from the accidental administration of these vaccines during pregnancy).

Discretionary vaccination/testing

  • Meningococcal Meningitis: Vaccination with the currently available quadrivalent meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine will decrease the risk for meningococcal disease. Vaccination does not eliminate risk because a) the vaccine confers no protection against serogroup B disease and b) although the vaccine is highly effective against serogroups C, Y, W-135, and A, efficacy is <100%.  The risk for meningococcal disease among college students is low; therefore, vaccination of all college students, all freshmen, or only freshmen who live in dormitories or residence halls is not recommended, but is available to students who desire to reduce their risk.
  • Hepatitis A Virus (HAV): The risk of acquiring HAV is considered low in Ohio. Hepatitis A vaccination is not required of nursing students, but recommended to students traveling to areas where hepatitis A is prevalent (primarily west coast and developing countries). Groups at greatest risk for HAV are travelers, children ages 5-14, injecting and non- injecting drug users, persons who have clotting factors disorders, MSM (men who have sex with men), persons working with primates, and persons who have liver disease.
  • HIV Testing: Nursing students who are at risk for HIV and who have a desire to be tested can avail themselves of testing and pre and post testing counseling through the Columbus Health Department or The Ohio State University Student Health Services.
  • Smallpox: Routine smallpox vaccination is currently only recommended for persons who are designated by the appropriate federal, state, and local bioterrorism and public health authorities to conduct investigation and follow-up of initial smallpox cases that might necessitate direct patient contact (CDC, 2003). Additionally, vaccination is recommended to persons responsible for administering smallpox vaccine in a pre-event smallpox vaccination program.
  • Anthrax: Routine Anthrax vaccination is currently only recommended by the CDC for military personnel.

Responsibilities of the student in the care of infected patients

Nurses are front-line providers of health care, and the delivery of nursing care is not without safety hazards.  All nursing personnel are professionally and ethically obligated to provide client/patient care with compassion and respect for human dignity and the uniqueness of the persons for whom they care, unrestricted by considerations of social and economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of health problems (ANA,

2001).  Students who follow the recommendations developed by the Centers for Disease Control have minimal danger of contracting any infection in the course of their clinical practice/research activities.

Refusal to care for an infected patient is contrary to the ethics of the nursing profession. Students who express apprehension or concern over personal safety and health because of a clinical assignment that brings him/her in contact with individuals who are at risk for or who are infected with an infectious disease will be counseled by his/her clinical instructor and directed to specific information concerning the pathogenic organism and recommended precautions.  Students who refuse to care for an infected individual because of the belief that it will place him/her at risk of exposure, when reasonable risk cannot be demonstrated (e.g., the student is immunosupressed), will be advised that such action is not in accordance with satisfactory clinical performance. Such cases will be handled as individual instances in which students have not met the course requirements.  Career counseling may be recommended to determine if the student should continue a career in nursing. Students who are pregnant will be considered on a case to case basis with consideration of CDC and institutional policy.

When caring for persons with infectious diseases, students and faculty are expected to understand and follow current HIPAA rules of privacy and confidentiality.

Management of student exposed to pathogenic microorganisms

Any incident that exposes a student or a patient to the risk of a pathogenic microorganism by needle puncture or contact with secretions/body fluids while in the clinical setting should be reported to the student’s clinical instructor and clinical nursing supervisor (preceptor and/or charge nurse) immediately.  Specific agency/institution procedures for such contact should be adhered to. Immediate actions should include:

  • Wash needle sticks and cuts with soap and water
  • Flush splashes to the nose, mouth, or skin with water
  • Irrigate eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigants
  • Immediately seek medical

Treatment areas at the OSU Medical Center include: Employee Health (614-293-8146), Occupational Medicine (614-257-3559), or, after hours and on weekends and holidays, Emergency Department (614-293-8333). Any questions should be directed to the Ohio State University Environmental Health and Safety Office (614-292-1284). Students who are at agencies other than the OSUMC system should follow the guidelines according to the placement agency.

Management of student who is a source of pathogenic organism

Students who have been diagnosed with infectious diseases should understand that they may pose a risk to patients, particularly highly vulnerable populations like neonates, oncology patients and those immunocompromised from disease or treatment.  Students have an ethical duty to be aware of their immunity status or chronic infectious disease (e.g., Hepatitis B, HIV) status to ensure they do not place others at risk of infection.  Students who know they are infected are encouraged to voluntarily inform the Academic Associate Dean in the college who will refer the students to the Office of Disability Services for modifications or accommodations in clinical education. Such modifications will be made on a case by case basis considering compliance with CDC recommendations and University policy.

It is the desire of the College of Nursing to prevent discrimination against students who may have an infectious disease.  Qualified individuals cannot and will not be denied admission to the nursing program solely on the basis of his/her infectious disease status. Screening of potential candidates or inquiry into infectious disease status should not be part of the student application processes.


  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing
  • American Nurses Association (2001). Code of Ethics for Nurses. Washington, D.C.: American Nurses Publishing.
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. Office for Civil Rights website.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration website
  • Ohio State University Environmental Health and Safety Office website

Note:  This policy is based on currently available information. It will be updated as new information is forthcoming from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In the absence of new CDC directives, the policy will be reviewed annually in accordance with the University Infection Control guidelines/requirements. Policy review will be initiated by the Assistant Dean and approved by the faculty of the College of Nursing.  A copy of the policy will be included in student handbooks given to entering students. It is the responsibility of faculty members and students to familiarize themselves with this policy.