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Specimen Guidelines

The proper collection of a specimen for culture is the most important step in the recovery of pathogenic organisms responsible for infectious disease. A poorly collected specimen may lead to failure in isolating the causative organism(s) and/or result in the recovery of contaminating organisms.

Download Specimen Collection Guidelines PDF

 Basic Concepts for Specimen Collection 

  1. Collect the specimen from the actual site of infection, avoiding contamination from adjacent tissues or secretions.
  2. Collect the specimen at optimal times (for example, early morning sputum for AFB culture).
  3. Collect a sufficient quantity of material. Use appropriate collection devices: sterile, leak-proof specimen containers. Use appropriate transport media (anaerobe transport vials, Culturette for bacterial culture, Cary-Blair for stool culture, M4RT for viral and Chlamydia cultures, and urine boric acid transport. Check expiration date before inoculating collection device.
  4. Whenever possible, collect specimens prior to administration of antimicrobial agents.
  5. Properly label the specimen and complete the test request form. The specific source of specimen is required. Example: wound, left leg.
  6. Minimize transport time. Maintain an appropriate environment between collection of specimens and delivery to the laboratory.
  7. If appropriate, decontaminate the skin surface. Use 70-95% alcohol (ALC) and 2% chlorhexidine or 1-2% tincture of iodine (TIO) to prepare the site. Allow a contact time of two minutes to maximize the antiseptic effect.
  8. For the orders with more than one test, ensure that the proper transport is utilized. (For example, anaerobic culture requests need to be submitted in anaerobic transport media; bacteriology requests should not be in viral media; AFB requests should not be in anaerobic transport media.

Other Useful Links for Nurses:

JHH Department of Nursing Policies and Procedures

JHH Children's Center Policies and Procedures

JHH Nursing Practice and Organization Manual

JHH Staff Development Resources

JHH Disaster Preparedness Procedures


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