Kathy Petersen

Leading the way in ambulatory care infection prevention

Kathy Petersen, MS, CIC 
University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers
Ann Arbor, MI

Kathy Petersen, MS, CIC, developed an integrated and effective infection prevention program that improves care for the massive ambulatory care population at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers (UMHHC). 

When Petersen joined UMHHC in 1992, the system comprised six health centers and approximately 60 outpatient clinics. At the time, there wasn’t much information in the infection prevention literature specific to ambulatory care. “We forged ahead,” she says. “If I expected our centers to have good infection prevention, I needed to give them tools.” 

Petersen started by creating a detailed site survey, visiting each UMHHC site, meeting the staff, and asking questions. “Face-to-face communication is vital,” says Petersen. “Getting to know the change agents in each location has made my job easier.” Petersen and her team conduct site surveys annually, working with staff members at individual sites to resolve any infection prevention issues. 

To ensure infection prevention practices are consistent across UMHHC facilities, Petersen developed standardized ambulatory care policies and procedures. These include guidelines for process surveillance, which Petersen developed in collaboration with ambulatory services medical and administrative leadership. “Process surveillance is critical in ambulatory care,” she says. All processes are posted online to ensure ready access for UMHHC staff.

Training programs and standardized processes for cleaning, high-level disinfection, and sterilization created by Petersen have also benefitted UMHHC and its patients, ensuring consistency and cost savings. 

As UMHHC grew – now comprising 30 health centers, 120 outpatient clinics, and two ambulatory surgery centers – Petersen maintained consistency by leveraging technology, evidence, communication, and creativity. And, to address the lack of resources she encountered when she started at UMHHC, she literally wrote the book on ambulatory care – “Infection Control in Ambulatory Care” (2004, co-authored with Candace Friedman). 

When Petersen retired from UMHHC recently, she left a tremendous legacy of infection prevention leadership and success.