CASE STUDY - Can Hospitals Make You Sick? Lab Safety and Aseptic Technique

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Students will be able to communicate ideas and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats present in a current medical dilemma (antibiotic resistance, lab safety, aseptic technique) in order to devise an appropriate course of action to effectively address the problem.

Big Idea

Potentially dangerous situations can arise if biotechnologists (students) do not practice proper lab safety.


Students will take part in a two-part, sort of pre-test/post-test; formative assessment with the first administration will be given at the beginning of the lesson. Students will view a video of a laboratory technician’s unsafe practice and attempt to identify at least twelve errors being made by the biotechnologist. After analyzing the two case studies, completing the online courses from NCCC BioNetwork on aseptic technique and lab safety, reviewing OSHA guidelines, MSDS, and hospital acquired infections, students will revisit this video and not only correctly identify ALL errors being made by the lab technician BUT also explain the result and consequences of the mistakes being made by the employee. Finally, students will conduct an official SWOT analysis in order to determine the risk involved in failing to practice aseptic technique or following proper lab safety procedures.

Importance of Lesson Objective

Poor lab safety practice and aseptic technique is responsible for the loss of revenue and time as well as potentially the loss of life, as seen in the case studies of hospital acquired infections with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria students are analyzing during this lesson. Students will be able to connect aseptic technique with the critical nature of the work we will do this year in biotechnology and the goal of protecting themselves from the experiments they conduct and protecting the experiments from them. Potentially dangerous situations can arise if students do not practice proper lab safety.

Connection to Prior Knowledge

As we have learned in our preliminary review of case studies dealing with antibiotic resistance about 30,000 U.S. deaths a year are linked to hospital-acquired infections such as C. difficile a potentially lethal antibiotic resistant microbe. Students will begin the lesson by rating their knowledge of several aspects of other drug-resistant occurrences we have investigated such as the US Navy’s recent outbreak of Gonorrhea and the current Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Africa. We discuss what conditions promote the spread of infectious disease, with unsafe laboratory practice and poor aseptic technique being one of the leading causes of the spread of disease in our biotechnology workplace.


15 minutes

Students will complete the ENGAGE portion of the lesson by viewing a video entitled, “Lab Unsafety and Septic Technique” via YouTube.  Students will be instructed to list at least 12 habits observed in the video that could be connected to a proposed contamination in a mock lab.

Based on the lab technician’s aseptic technique, were they any actions observed that would account for the cell line contamination in the lab? If so, what is the connection between the action and the consequence or potential danger? What are the potential dangers of poor aseptic technique?

“Let’s prepare for our lesson today on a current biomedical dilemma, antibiotic resistance, which has many causes as we have studied, BUT has a direct connection to proper lab safety and aseptic technique in a hospital or lab environment.”


20 minutes

Students review two case studies, "A Rare Superbug Kills..." and "Far more could be done to stop C.diff", as we move into the EXPLORE portion of the lesson.  Using the reciprocal reading strategy, pairs of students read one of the selections (i.e. A) while the other partner reads the remaining case study (i.e. B).  Using the “Golden Lines” notetaker students select three excerpts appearing at the beginning, middle, and end of the case study. After reading the excerpts, students identify a “golden line” from each section and record the quotes.  A “golden line” is a line of text that is especially meaningful, surprising, helpful or thought provoking. Students will then refer to the Costa’s Levels document located in the purple resource folder and use the guides and rubrics to compose Costa’s levels 1, 2, and 3 questions based on the golden lines selected.

Students are directed to “turn and talk” and share their golden lines as well as a justification for their selections. Students will also share their Costa’s questions with the entire group and the instructor and their class members will attempt to classify the question.

“Would it be great to hear from the individuals in each case study in order to further our understanding and possibly hear explanations of each ordeal from the viewpoint of the victim?”


20 minutes

Students will be able to investigate new personal accounts of each case study from the point of view of the victim or the victim’s family by viewing two excerpts from documentaries of each case. Students are asked to identify and record aspects of the case that could be classified as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats using their SWOT notetaker.

Check for Understanding

Students are shown a statement from Case A and asked to categorize this aspect of the case using SWOT. Students write their designation on an individual whiteboard and display the response to the class and instructor. Students share their classifications as well as justifications!

“Now you are prepared to investigate one of these case studies with a greater focus and at a deeper level.”


15 minutes

Overview of Task:

1.  Each pair partner will reread and analyze excerpts from either Case A or Case B using the SWOT strategy.

2.  Mark the text, while reading, using whatever strategies are most useful. They record their thoughts on the SWOT table provided.

 Students form teams of 3-4 and quickly create SWOT posters for the Case Study of their choice.  Assess each group’s level of mastery in regards to applying SWOT by meeting with the teams and asking random students to justify the classifications of information provided.

 “As we bring this lesson to a close, let’s take an opportunity to reflect on the intersection between antibiotic resistance, aseptic technique and lab/patient safety.”