What Is A “Rock Star” Doctor?

What Is A “Rock Star” Doctor? was originally published on Hospital Recruiting.

A physician "rock star" takes a stroll on the beach with his guitar. The article discusses what is meant by the term "rock star" when it is applied to physicians and how doctors can become that type of physician
Sergey Nivens/123RF.com

It’s not the actions, it’s the spirit

Physician recruiters often use the phrase “Rock Star” to describe their ideal candidate. But what exactly does that mean?

On the surface, it’s an obvious analogy: they want an awesome physician – someone that other physicians would emulate, that co-workers would look up to.

It’s a strange analogy, however. Patients don’t see doctors for a good time; they go because they’re sick. Further, the stereotypical rock star is quite opposite of what a recruiter would really want. Rock stars are thought of as erratic, wild, free-spirited and creative — not your typical physician!

Though some recruiters may be referring to the book on rock star doctors, many are referring to the spirit rock stars embody: a leader who has it all under control – an ability to build a practice, care for patients, and maintain a healthy mind while doing it.

Rock star physicians are energetic

Rock stars don’t typically stand on stage, emotionless. They’re moving, dancing, amping people up. Even if they’re physically still, they have the ability to create energy in those around them.

Rock star physicians do the same.

Rock star physicians create energy. They don’t take energy from those around them. People like working with them because it’s innervating. They breed excitement. When they come on shift, their co-workers and nurses know that things will be moving that day, that they’ll be expected to be on the top of their game, because the doctor is.

They are vital and eager to see new patients.

They are efficient, effective team players

Efficiency in medicine is often interpreted as “doing fast things fast and slow things slowly.”

If it calls for time, a rock star physician takes it. If it needs to be knocked out in five minutes, it’s already complete.

They aren’t milling about and dawdling until their shift is over. They’re managing their time effectively, which includes maximizing their time spent with patients.

Patient encounters should take time, electronic medical records should not.  Rock star physicians understand this and learn ways to optimize their face-to-face time with patients. This improves patient experience, grows practices and maximizes reimbursement.

Rock stars see what needs to be done and they handle it without lamentation, no matter how unpleasant the task. There are no excuses. Patients are dispositioned. Charts are completed. Boxes are checked.

From housekeeping to nurses, the team working with a rock star physician is engaged. They feel respected, heard and valued. Rock star physicians lead by example, setting the tone with excellent work ethic and results.

Rock star physicians don’t spend their day looking for ways to avoid work, they look for ways to manage and accomplish it.

They understand the concept of “on stage”

Even if a band has been touring and playing a hit song for decades, that song must sound as good at the end of their tour as it did in the beginning. They have to deliver a consistent, predictable rendition of what fans have come to see them perform.

It doesn’t matter if they’re sick, tired, or can’t stand to sing the song again, they’re on stage and must perform.

Rock star physicians must do the same. When they’re with a patient, they are “on stage.” They must be present and show empathy.Regardless of how exhausted they are or how emotionally abusive a patient is toward them, they understand that they must perform.

Patients, like fans, have expectations of how they will be treated. Rock star physicians anticipate and meet these expectations.

They have to have it together, show consistency, resilience, and resolve in the face of abusive work.

They take care of themselves

From optimizing electronic medical record usage, coping with abusive patients, or seeking mental healthcare when needed, rock star physicians understand the value of self-care.

Balancing time well both on the job and overall allows for career longevity.  These physicians understand time-management but also how to schedule a life that lets them pursue outside interests. It’s this balance that leads to mental stability, decreased likelihood of burnout and greater career satisfaction.

Self-care is critical. Without it, no physician would be able to function at this level.


Collectively, these are the traits of leaders.

They describe a person that other people would want to follow. They’re traits we build teams around and try to re-create throughout organizations.

Many physicians possess some of these characteristics, but excellent physicians possess them all. Seamlessly integrating them into an excellent patient care experience is what makes you a rock star.