​Clinical Student Policies

Professional and Clinical Dress Code

Faculty, and Staff are expected to present a professional appearance at all times. Faculty, and Staff are expected to be clean, well-groomed, and dressed in a manner appropriate to their responsibilities. In positions where continuous contact with the public is required, suggested acceptable attire are: shirt, tie, and slacks for men; slacks or skirt with blouse for women. The following types of clothing are NOT appropriate for the work place: jeans, overalls, sweatshirts or sweatpants, shorts, leggings, halters, tank tops, t-shirts, workout clothes, sandals, or open-toe shoes. (sneakers are acceptable if clean and presentable.) Students, Faculty, and Staff must maintain a professional appearance even though patients may not be scheduled in their area on a given day. Students, Faculty, and Staff must maintain an optimum level of personal hygiene, using deodorant and avoiding foods which present offensive odors to the patients.

In positions where direct patient care is provided (directly or assisting), your scrubs must be worn. There is a "one-color" policy for scrubs for each of the different class years and clinical roles. Every new class will select a new color (not already being used) as their class' scrub color.

In clinic, ALL FACULTY/STUDENTS/STAFF MUST wear SCRUBS when treating patients or assisting in patient care. They are also required to wear DISPOSABLE GOWNS over their scrubs. Disposable gowns should be changed in between every patient or when they become visibly contaminated or soiled. They can be disposed of in normal waste. MASKS AND PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR MUST BE WORN AT ALL TIMES WHEN SPLATTER, SPLASH, OR AEROSOL PRODUCING PROCEDURES (OR OBSERVATIONS OF PROCEDURES) ARE BEING DONE. GLOVES MUST BE WORN AT ALL TIMES WHEN EXAMINING PATIENTS AND PROVIDING CARE. Head coverings are required in the event there is intrusion of hair into the operating field. Bonnets will be provided. Monitoring of activity will be done and failure to comply with the dress code as stated may result in: verbal warnings, documented remediation, letter of warning, or disciplinary process. You are required to review in its entirety the Infection Control Manual.

Policy on Voluntary Externships

DDS students often seek to perform voluntary externships at other dental sites such as colleges or hospitals. Externships are an opportunity to observe the protocols, facilities, and general operations of other institutions. If considering such an activity, please know the following:

Voluntary externships must occur during student vacation times or as a 3rd year selective, with approval from the Academic Dean; no one is excused from regular academic and clinical duties on site at the College of Dental Medicine (see attendance policy)

Students who are required to have letters of “good academic standing” or statements in writing regarding the provision of professional liability insurance may obtain these from the Office of Student Affairs. Please see the Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs with any questions regarding these activities.

Policy Statement on Infectious Diseases

Accidental exposure to infectious disease agents in spite of all appropriate precautions is a risk faced by the population at large and by all health care professionals in particular. Health care professionals must learn and observe precautions regarding known communicable disease entities, potential “occupational exposure,” and indications for using available immunizations.

I. New York State by law requires all students to provide proof of immunity to mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR). Immunity to MMR must be either documented or immunization attained. Our Student Health Service will provide you with all necessary details.

II. Hepatitis B

It is the policy of the College of Dental Medicine that all newly enrolled students must present to the Student Health Service an original or verified copy document of a laboratory titer test result demonstrating immunity to the Hepatitis B virus. If a student has a negative titer, i.e. has not been immunized nor has had Hepatitis B or such documentation is not available, students must do one of the following:

a. With a physician of your selection begin the immunization process with a Hepatitis B vaccine (e.g. Recombivax or other). Immunization requires 3 injections over several months.

b. Begin the process of immunization with the Student Health Service.

Please note that a “letter” from your physician is not acceptable as evidence of sufficient antibody levels; an actual copy of the laboratory report giving exact antibody levels to the hepatitis B virus is necessary.

III. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis incidence has increased in recent years. It is required that health care students in high-risk areas such as dentistry be tested for infection annually. The Student Health Service offers this test as part of the covered services. If a student has reason to expect infection, e.g. known exposure with compromised barrier protection or the development of symptoms, more frequent testing is available by appointment at Student Health.

Any student coming from an area of endemic tuberculosis should have a PPD performed. If a positive reaction >10cm occurs and BCG vaccine was received more than six years before, six months of isoniazid therapy should be begun.

Any student who is HIV positive should not provide care to tuberculosis patients and should have a 5 TU PPD performed. If a 2mm or greater reaction occurs, isoniazid therapy should be initiated for one year.

IV. In all such matters confidentiality and individual counseling through our Student Health Services are critical factors. For further information, please contact the Student Health Service at 212-305-3400.

V. Flu

Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) requires mandatory participation in the vaccine immunization program for all clinical students, and strongly encourages all students in other schools to receive influenza vaccination in order to protect themselves, their colleagues, their patients, and their families and friends. The goal is to vaccinate 100 percent of the student population, except for those with a documented medical contraindication to the vaccine. Flu vaccine is available free-of-charge to all CUMC students enrolled in the Student Health Service. Students who receive their vaccine elsewhere must provide Student Health with documentation in person, and will then be given the ID badge sticker.

Because influenza is such a serious illness, the New York State Department of Health requires health care workers who decline or have a medical contraindication to the vaccine to wear surgical masks in areas where patients are typically present, including inpatient and outpatient locations, lobbies, elevators, corridors, cafeterias, gift shops, and common areas. The “masks on” date will be determined by the New York State Health Commissioner based on regional flu activity.

Students considering declining the vaccination are required to take an educational course about influenza (available at the Student Health Service). Those who still choose to decline the vaccine must then sign a declination form. In keeping with State regulations, once the “masks-on” mandate is in effect, unvaccinated students who do not comply will be subject to corrective action through their school or department.

Occupational Exposure

Body fluid exposures are a medical emergency. If you sustain an occupational exposure, come to the Student Health Service immediately. If we are closed, contact the SHS clinician on call (212-305-3400) and go to the nearest emergency room. If prophylaxis is indicated, it is most effective when begun with 1 hour of the exposure. You must also file an incident report at your clinical site for any body fluid exposure or injury.

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, cerebral spinal fluid, peritoneal or pericardial fluid, saliva in dental procedures, or any fluid contaminated by blood).

Follow these steps immediately:

  • 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 Services.

If you have the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan, there will be no charge to you for treatment of an occupational exposure.

  • The emergency room bill will be paid by the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan. SHS will reimburse you for the ER copay.
  • Use your insurance card for any medications prescribed. SHS will reimburse you for the copays.
  • If you have alternate insurance, you must pay for labs drawn at SHS and submit your bills to your insurance company for reimbursement. SHS will reimburse you for copays on ER bills and medications up to the limits of the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan policy.

Save your bills, explanation of benefits, and receipts for reimbursement. Remember to notify SHS if you have sustained an occupational exposure.

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