Occupational Exposures

Body Fluid Exposures and Occupational Injuries

Medical Services is availabe to treat all body fluid exposures and occupational injuries. Remember, body fluid exposures are a medical emergency.

  • If you sustain an occupational exposure, contact Student Health on Haven immediately. If we are closed, contact the Student Health clinician on call at 212-305-3400 and go to the nearest emergency room.
  • If prophylaxis is indicated, the goal is to start within 1-2 hours of the exposure.
  • You must also file an incident report at your clinical site for any body fluid exposure or injury.

Blood-Borne Pathogen Exposures

A blood-borne pathogen exposure is not JUST a needle stick, but the exposure of non-intact skin or any mucosal surface to blood or other potentially infectious body fluids (e.g., semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk, CSF, peritoneal or pericardial fluid, saliva in dental procedures, or any fluid contaminated by blood).

Follow these steps immediately for a blood-borne pathogen exposure:

  • Cleanse the injury (soap and water).
  • Notify your resident, preceptor or attending to arrange for prompt counseling and testing of the source patient for HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B. Getting the source patient tested can potentially save you a month of prophylaxis, drug side effects, and many months of anxiety.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Notify Student Health.

Insurance Considerations for Occupational Exposures

As a preventive measure, all clinical students enrolled in the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan, regardless of plan level, are enrolled in an annual supplemental plan to cover blood-borne pathogen exposures. The annual premium for this plan is $10, and the fee will be assessed during the fall semester. New incoming Spring or Summer students are billed $10 during their respective term of arrival.

The supplemental insurance plan will minimize your out-of-pocket costs should you require treatment related to any blood-borne pathogen exposure in the course of your clinical experience. 

If you are planning to waive the Aetna Student Health Insurance Plan, please ensure you have adequate coverage in case of occupational exposure to blood-borne pathogens.  

For questions about reimbursements or procedures, please contact shsinsurance@cumc.columbia.edu.