Dx: Crisis: An Informal Conversation With Stanton N. Smullens, MD, FACS, and SaraKay Smullens, MSW, LCSW, About Burnout, Depression, and COVID-19


  • Caitlyn Allen Patient Safety Authority
  • SaraKay Smullens, MSW, LCSW
  • Stanton N. Smullens, MD


Before the pandemic, clinicians were experiencing high rates of burnout, and physician death by suicide was occurring at an alarming rate. COVID-19 has exacerbated a dire situation. As this crisis was unfolding, we sat down (i.e., zoomed) with Dr. Stanton N. Smullens, chair of the Patient Safety Authority, and his wife, SaraKay Smullens, therapist and best-selling author who completed five years of research on burnout, to discuss a growing crisis, the effects of the coronavirus, and why the future may be more positive than you think.

Author Biographies

Caitlyn Allen, Patient Safety Authority

Caitlyn Allen (caiallen@pa.gov) is the director of Engagement of the Patient Safety Authority.

SaraKay Smullens, MSW, LCSW

SaraKay Smullens is a social worker, family therapist, and best-selling author. A diplomate in clinical social work, she is certified as both family life educator and group psychotherapist, as well as a contributor to peer-reviewed literature, and local and national press. SaraKay has written several books, including Burnout and Self-Care in Social Work: A Guidebook for Students and Those in Mental Health and Related Professions, which examines primary factors leading to burnout, and the individualized self-care strategies, activities, and attitudes that address and prevent it. During the past two years her efforts to educate about burnout and self-care have taken her to settings in this country and abroad. A recipient of a both a Social Worker of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award from National Association of Social Workers Pennsylvania Chapter, SaraKay was one of six chosen for the Inaugural Hall of Fame of her graduate school alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice.

Stanton N. Smullens, MD

Stanton N. Smullens is chair of the Patient Safety Authority Board of Directors, a clinical professor of Surgery at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, and a lecturer in the Jefferson College of Population Health. He was the founding president and CEO of JeffCare, the Physician Hospital Organization of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and served as chief medical officer of Jefferson Health System from 1997 to 2014. Subsequently he was chief medical officer and then medical director of Network Performance and Quality for the Delaware Valley Accountable Care Organization. Stan is a member of many local and national medical societies and has published widely in the medical literature.

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How to Cite

Allen, C., Smullens, S., & Smullens, S. N. (2020). Dx: Crisis: An Informal Conversation With Stanton N. Smullens, MD, FACS, and SaraKay Smullens, MSW, LCSW, About Burnout, Depression, and COVID-19. Patient Safety, 2(2), 114–123. Retrieved from https://patientsafetyj.com/index.php/patientsaf/article/view/smullens-interview
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