By Aine Cryts
Career-wise, Scott Hall, CBET, AAMI & GE Healthcare’s 2017 “BMET of the Year,” is nothing if not strategic. A recently retired supervisory biomedical equipment support specialist at the VA Medical Center in Lexington, Ky., Hall harkens back to his retail-working days of the ’80s when asked about how he got started in the biomedical field.
He was good at fixing things, but he also knew his career prospects were slim if he stayed on that path. That’s why he took control of his career by joining the U.S. Air Force. A surprising choice for someone who wanted to build a career in biomedical technologies? Not so, says Hall.
It was in the Air Force that Hall received nine months of training in electronics, which would launch him into a 32-year career in biomedical technologies. In fact, he served in the Air Force for about 4.5 years and remembers getting laughed at in basic training, when his fellow trainees learned that was headed to biomedical training for 37 weeks.
But Hall was focused. He knew what he wanted to do with his time in the Air Force, where he served from November 1984 to May 1989. While he got the experience he needed to be successful in his biomedical career, he left the service largely because he couldn’t imagine being separated from his wife, Shari, as can often happen in the military. (The couple met in 1985, when they were both serving in the Air Force, and married in 1987.)
After leaving the service, he headed to Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Ky., where he worked a short two or three months before getting a job offer from the VA. Hall remained at the VA where he worked in a variety of roles—from imaging specialist to his recent supervisory role—until his recent retirement.
And, like his career path, moving to Kentucky was a strategic move for Hall. Kentucky, he says, just made sense. Hall knew he didn’t want to survive another harsh winter in Ohio, where he grew up, whereas Louisiana, where he had also lived, was “ungodly humid.” Lexington, however, was right in Hall’s “geographic sweet spot” of “somewhere in Tennessee or Kentucky.”
No Place Like the VA
During his tenure at the VA, Hall says one of the most rewarding aspects was “hearing the [veterans] talk about things that they went through during the war,” says Hall. Some veterans, for instance, served in Germany during World War II and would talk about “how bad that was” and how the experience had traumatized—and shaped—them.
“It made me appreciate the people who put themselves in that position,” Hall says. “When people go into the military, they could be shot or captured—all of those things. I appreciate these people who have risked their lives and love their country.”
He also appreciates the efforts of new BMETs—a group with whom he has much wisdom to impart. His top advice for fledgling HTM professionals? Gain as much training and experience as possible. After all, Hall says, “No one wants to talk to you or take a chance on you unless you have experience in the [biomedical] field.”
It’s not just his own story that forms his opinion on the importance of real-world experience for young people starting out. He points to his son’s experience when he was at the beginning of his career: Even with a biomedical degree, his son Kelly (or “KP”) couldn’t find a job in the field, says Hall. After a few years, KP returned to school and now works at Mentor, Ohio-based Steris, a provider of infection prevention products and other services.
That’s one of the major reasons Hall has spent much of his career mentoring young people in the biomedical field. Whether he was welcoming interns or new employees to the VA, he always knew that getting experience gave budding BMETs “a leg up” on other job candidates.
Beyond the required hands-on technical skills, today’s HTM professionals need to know how to deal with people—and, in particular, with stressful situations, according to Hall. He cites the example of a biomedical professional getting yelled at by a surgeon in the operating room. His advice for any individual in that position? Handle it with grace.
This is in addition to troubleshooting real-world problems and chasing down electronics and fixing and testing them afterwards, advises Hall, who highlights that many of these skills are learned outside of the classroom.
He also encourages new HTM professionals to consider the benefits of association membership, particularly AAMI. Calling his affiliation with AAMI a “big benefit” to his career, Hall says he was motivated to join the association after seeing Air Force colleagues achieve AAMI certification.
It’s just another way Hall was affected by his time in the Air Force. He credits his mentors with similarly making a huge difference in his life—especially since he hadn’t grown up around the military. In fact, he says his mentor, Chief Master Sergeant Donald Brittan—a 27-year military veteran—helped him learn how to progress in a military career.“I didn’t know military ways, but Brittan was there to ensure that those things didn’t trip me up,” says Hall.
“If you want to get promoted in the Air Force, you have to know that being ‘Airman of the Month’ is important, as is the ability to present in front of the various [leadership] boards,” he adds. He credits Brittan with drilling him on what he’d say in those situations, so that the pressure was gone by the time he needed to actually do his presentations.
Mr. Hall’s Opus
Asked what has caused the greatest change in the biomedical field in the last 32 years, Hall has one word: Computers. After all, he says, today’s HTM professionals are regularly charged with troubleshooting various components within computers, he says—something that was foreign to the BMETs of the ’80s.
And from a personal standpoint, change is also on the horizon for Hall. Since retiring from the VA in March, he admits that he has more time on his hands. Time, he says, to perhaps take a long-awaited trip to Alaska or head out for more hikes. Because as much as he loves the biomedical field, Hall says it’s in the great outdoors where he really gets to recharge his batteries.
- Favorite hobby: Hall loves being outside, whether that involves hunting or hiking. “I enjoy being out there,” he says. “It’s not about the hunt, it’s about seeing all these things that you’d never observe if you weren’t outside.”
- Favorite book: “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson. “I like the book because it’s a funny perspective on [Bryson’s] experiences hiking. My hiking trips always end up having things go wrong that are laughable, such as falling in a creek and getting my boots soaked,” Hall quips.
- Favorite musicians: Hall enjoys “old style rock and roll” bands, such as Foreigner, Styx, and the Michael Stanley Band.
Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for 24×7 Magazine. For more information, contact chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].