How Boundaries Block Burnout: By John R. Nocero and Molly Downhour

Today’s guest article features two thought leaders in the Boundaries and Burnout Space, Molly Downhour and John R. Nocero.  Their respective bios are at the end of this article, and I highly recommend you review their bios, and reach out to them on LinkedIn.  Their respective passions and experiences around burnout and the need for boundaries will help you navigate through your own challenges.


John R. Nocero

John R. Nocero


According to Alec Steele, the cost of burnout is higher than the loss of taking a weekend off. It’s the weekend, I’ve worked out and am waiting for the Yankees-Red Sox game tonight on FOX. With the exception of a couple LinkedIn requests (and posts; okay more than a couple posts), It’s perfect. I have started to prioritize my recovery, maybe differently than you do. I love what I do and I could not imagine doing anything else. I have worked with the absolute best professional partner of my life while managing a clinical research unit and am now transitioning into building a clinical quality management program. Twelve-hour days are the norm; but my diet and exercise routine are on point, I’m focused and thinking clearly. I am connected to my mission, vision and purpose in life - being a research administrator within the Duke healthcare system or a similar healthcare system here in North Carolina by 2019.

It was not always this way. About four years ago, I took a job in Erie, Pa as the Chief Compliance Officer and Administrator of Governance, Risk Management and compliance for the national institute of autism. Did I want to take that job? Honestly, hell no. I did it because my administrator was leaving and I didn’t want to be without her. The money was nice, my bank account was solid, the travel sucked, I commuted between Cleveland and Erie weekly on treacherous Interstate 90 in the snow; I thought it was what my career was supposed to be. It was an awful fit – I disliked the business, especially my immediate boss, but I did make a great connection who turned out to be my successor. I woke up one day and just quit – I hated it- and went back to Cleveland. 

Looking back, it was the best move I made. Now, I am calm and resilient, I listen to me and what I want, and continue to learn and grow in the role that I want. I make sound decisions, have good habits and do nothing self-destructive. I’m a producer, not a consumer. Most importantly, I love those who love me, professionally and personally, like they are free, and don’t chase those who don’t. It is my truest version of masculine energy - about purpose, drive, mission, succeeding, accomplishing, breaking through barriers and overcoming obstaclesI know that my real goal in life is happiness, and I will always have the right tools available to me to maximize my happiness. They’re everywhere, and they are free.

I’m still a work in progress – I’m speaking to you, Kraft Mac & Cheese (Michael note: referred as “KD” in Canada 🇨🇦) , you golden delicious emotional savior.  My goal, each and every day, is to try and get a little better today than yesterday. Take care of your body and eat a little healthier this week than I did last week. Focus on my career; and getting up and doing things that make you happy and make you smile, because when you’re happy and you love life, you’re going to smile more, feel better, feel more proud of yourself, naturally stand taller and you’ll be in a peaceful and relaxed state. When you focus on taking care of you, everything else will fall into place.


Molly Downhour

Molly Downhour


I was at a Womens’ Empowerment conference with a colleague.  The first speaker talked about being on top of her game professionally with salary and title, but she didn’t feel fulfilled. She quit her job and pursued her passion.  After she quit her job, she noticed her chronic headaches and intermittent cough had resolved.  She literally felt better and she found her passion and purpose.  I thought to myself, I have chronic headaches and always on Mondays.  

The next speaker spoke about personal brand.  I have heard before that you are your own brand and always keep that in mind.  But her next statement was the life changer for me.  She said, “Your personal brand also gives permission to your children to also have that brand.”  Oh snap. My personal brand was telling my children that my job was more important than them, my husband, and my health.  I decided to quit my job that day and sure enough, my chronic headaches went away.

In retrospect, there were many other signs of burnout that in hindsight were obvious.  I am a feisty person, but at the time I accepted defeat easily from typical external requests being denied.  I was fatigued, slept poorly often with work related dreams, had decreased patience with my young children, and had less interest in the things I usually enjoy.  However, these symptoms were justified in my head because I loved my colleagues and patients, our purpose in early phase clinical trials, and I understood the investment the organization made in my career. I also felt I backed myself in a corner with such a niche career.  Who else would want me?

I was fortunate that I was able to find a job quickly after I quit my old one.  Was it my ability to see opportunities clearly or the release of negative energy that had opportunities knocking my door down?  It doesn’t really matter.  I know I was fortunate to be able to take the risk of quitting one job before securing another.  With this privilege, I made a commitment to myself and my family to create healthy boundaries with my career.  My brand now gives my children permission to work hard, take care of yourself, and be an engaged part of the family.

Michael:  I trust you enjoyed Molly and John’s stories as much as I have.  If you’re struggling with burnout or boundaries issues, reach out to one of us via LinkedIn, or visit and we will happily respond to your inquiries.

Be well!


About the Authors

Clinical Research Strategy Executive, Medix™

Molly has over 20 years of healthcare experience with specialization in oncology, research, and health care administration.  Molly earned her bachelors of nursing and master of health administration as well as her nurse executive advanced, oncology nurse, and clinical research coordination certifications.  As a former director of a leading phase I clinical trial site, she has proven ability to streamline processes resulting in improved clinical operational efficiencies, financial gain, and employee and patient satisfaction. Now Molly shares her passion, and expertise with sites as the strategy executive for Medix Clinical Research.  

John R. Nocero, PhD, MBA, CCRP, GCP, CC, ACB, IPPCR

Research Program Leader, Duke Office of Clinical Research


John is a Research Practice Leader in the Duke Office of Clinical Research. He is a best-in-class research programs expert, driving process & quality through data and outcomes and is a recognized leader in clinical research compliance, risk management, auditing & monitoring. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio, a master’s degree from American Intercontinental University and doctoral degree in public service leadership from Capella University. He is a certified clinical research professional and has worked in various conduct and administrative roles in clinical research since 2003.