University of Michigan Health System (UMHS)

University of Michigan Health System (UMHS)

The University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) is a large academic medical center and health care system located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It has three hospitals—University Hospital, C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital—totaling more than 47,000 hospital stays in 995 beds per year. UMHS includes 40 outpatient locations with more than 150 clinics across Michigan and northern Ohio. UMHS also offers Specialty Care Centers, such as the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Comprehensive Diabetes Center, Depression Center, Geriatrics Center, Transplant Center, and Kellogg Eye Center. UMHS is known for its highly ranked Medical School and School of Nursing.

Peer Mentoring at UMHS

For many years UMHS had small pockets of successful peer mentor programs. Over time, the need for a standardized process for training mentors and launching mentor programs throughout the system became clear.

In the spring of 2014, the Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC) Program, initiated a pilot project including team members from the UMHS Transplant Center, Scleroderma Program, Head and Neck Cancer Clinic, and the Frankel Cardiovascular Center—entities all looking to start or expand peer mentoring. Working with Erica Perry, Peer Program Specialist at the National Kidney Foundation, the pilot team developed a peer mentor coordination toolkit, implemented three collaborative, system-wide mentor trainings, and successfully on-boarded 27 new peer mentors. Additionally, seven new peer mentor programs were identified as "ready-to-launch," and pilot team members are working with staff to initiate peer mentor programs.

Staffing, Recruitment, Training, and Follow-Up

UMHS's Patient and Family Centered Care Program has 5.0 FTEs—two program managers (FT), two volunteer coordinators (.75 FTE each), one PFCC Specialist for Quality and Safety (.5 FTE), and one project coordinator (FT).

Each Peer Mentor Program must have a peer mentor coordinator. Primarily, local staff members are responsible for the recruitment of peer mentors as well as the day-to-day management and evaluation of the mentors and program. Each peer mentor coordinator spends 2-10 hours per week working with three to 35 peer mentors. PFCC Program staff assists with interviewing, volunteer on-boarding, and annual volunteer processing. Both entities partner to provide comprehensive orientation and training. UMHS absorbs program costs at the unit/department, volunteer services, and PFCC program levels.

Peer Mentor preparation includes pre-assessment using an 8-page mentor profile, as well as mandatory 8-hours of orientation, training, and self-reflection. Training program incorporates general volunteer orientation including HIPAA, Code of Conduct, and infection control; PFCC education; general peer mentor training and reflection; and disease specific training. UMHS uses a training manual that is based on materials from Erica Perry, including the National Kidney Foundation Peers Program.

Mentor hours are tracked through an online system. Peer mentor coordinators evaluate patient/mentor matches on an individual basis. Peer mentors complete a post-training survey to assess training program success. Additionally staff members from PFCC survey all volunteer peer mentors to determine satisfaction with the program and their roles. The goal is to have peer mentors participate in quarterly training and support sessions co-led by PFCC staff and unit level peer mentor coordinators.

UMHS currently has more than 100 peer mentors, and plans to train between 30-60 new mentors each year. The Kidney Peer Mentor Program is the largest with 35 peer mentors.

Referral, Match, and Follow-up Process

To inform a patient of the opportunity to begin a peer mentor relationship, faculty and staff may distribute peer mentor brochures or verbally share information about the peer program. The models for each program varies from service to service and include: one-to-one matches establishing both in-person and on-line relationships; joining private Social Media Sites dedicated to an illness or condition and monitored daily by UMHS staff; inpatient unit or outpatient clinic visits by peer mentor; and participation in patient/family support groups, classes, and orientations.


UMHS peer mentors are recognized and celebrated in several ways. The PFCC Program's JOY Award recognizes outstanding PFCC volunteers, which include peer mentors. In addition, all UMHS volunteers are invited to an annual recognition event during which eligible recipients receive certificates for 2, 5, 10, 20, and 30 years of volunteer service. Individual peer mentor programs host specials event and/or picnics for their peer mentors.

Evaluation and Sustainability

The 2014-2015 peer mentor pilot project identified areas to re-examine. Two of the new programs had difficulty engaging physicians and staff in matching and utilizing new mentors. The PFCC Program is re-evaluating the way the peer mentor programs are introduced to staff and working to increase awareness about the benefits of peer mentoring. UMHS PFCC Program is also looking into piloting Patient Activation Measure (PAM) to evaluate the impact peer mentor relationships have on mentee self-activation.

University of Michigan Health System Peer Mentor Toolkit (ZIP file)

This toolkit was created by the PFCC-led task force at the University of Michigan Health System, expanding on the seminal work by the Center for Independent Living and the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan. The content is meant to be shared to improve the lives of those affected by chronic illnesses/conditions.

Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC)
F4770 UH South
1500 East Medical Center Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5273
Phone: 734-764-1202    Fax: 734-232-6610