Aliquippa Hospital: Being an aide/Orderly was best pre-med experience

May 13, 2002 – my first day as an Orderly at Aliquippa Hospital.  Can’t believe this was 15 years ago.

I was pretty persistent and perseverant.  I wanted to work in a health care setting as a pre-med.  I had no idea that the experience would be so invaluable as I became a physician.

On that rainy May Day in Western Pennsylvania, I dressed in black dress pants, a crisply pressed white dress shirt and double Windsor knotted neck tie snugly around my neck.  I had shined my black dress shoes.  12 years of Carholic school taught me to dress to impress.    After arriving in the ER managers office, I was given paperwork and then told I would be working 11am until 11pm in the 9 bed ER, with two acute care rooms.   I was handed a pair of blue scrubs and told to change.  I can say I was the only Orderly wearing black dress shoes with scrubs.     I took the photo seen above and was ecstatic to be around physicians and patients, never realizing how much of what I learned came from the nursing staff.   Even now working Urgent Care a couple of the nurses I work with as a physician at age 36 knew me as a 21 year old pre-med who was amazed by everything that happened.    How cool is that!

Did I learn to bathe patients in the CCU, insert Foley catheters, clean patients who soiled them self with voluminous diarrhea in a diaper ? Yes I can say with pride I did.   The nurses who guided me encouraged me to clean up patients and they taught me more than I could ever repay them for.    Being a physician is more than the knowledge acquired from cramming mass amounts of medical knowledge into ones brain, it’s about the approach you take to caring for another human being.   Quickly I learned to appreciate life at every stage – at its most vulnerable, at end of life and even perform CPR and watch a patients die.   It helped me, I like to think, to become more empathic.    It helps to be a team player when to have played several different positions.

An ER nurse told me, “Sam, if I had a nickel for every interesting thing I saw… hell if I kept a journal I could write a book.  Below is an excerpt from that first day.  Two doctors – Dr Engle (an Orthopedic surgeon) and Dr. Rob Palguta were two of the first physicians to take an interest in me.   To this day i still am grateful.


My advice to pre-med students is this:

You can invest all of your time with your nose buried in a book or doing research.  The best teacher is experience, the “Book of Life” as Dr Terry Philbin taught me.   Investing your time seeing medicine from the perspective of nurses, aides, therapists was more valuable.

So with summer break upon many pre-meds, seek out a job in a hospital.  Learn from the nurses.  Physically care for another human being; you are not above wiping anyone’s rearend.  Spend time (while you can) bantering with patients – it helps with people skills and learning how to interact.  Burying your nose in a text or test tube pale in comparison to my great years at Aliquippa Hospital.  Become a well rounded physician and allow the patients to be your teacher, the nurses your friends, and Work on compassion. God blessed me with fond memories of my humble beginnings in medicine.


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3 replies

  1. Amen. I agree with every word I began my nursing career at 19. In the ICCU at OVGH. And learned more there from my peers than any book could teach.
    I miss my MD. An wish you well.

  2. Thanks for that advice Dr Urick! As a nurse and mom of a second year resident, I always remind him the nurses can make or break him!!!

  3. You are by far the MOST amazing physician- not because you are extremely knowledgeable but because you empathize. So sad when I had to look for a new pcp. The way you talked about your grandmother and mother speak volumes of your true character and upbringing. You are a stand up human being! Raised by the influences of two strong, fabulous women. Just like I was!!!

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