Tina Bale's unexpected route to technical instructor

When Tina Bale left school the last thing on her mind was achieving a first class degree and a major role in rehabilitation

Tina Bale's unexpected route to technical instructor

Tina Bale began her working life as a shepherd. She went on to become a theatre technician, but is now leading Pilates classes and much more as an advanced technical instructor with Medway Community Healthcare, Kent. She lives in Maidstone. 

Where did you physiotherapy career start?

After leaving school at 16, I went into farming. I had qualified as a shepherd, but my career in farming ended almost immediately because of a downturn in the industry caused by BSE and foot and mouth. 

I went back into education, this time studying for a BTec diploma in technical theatre. On graduating, I designed and built sets and lighting for fringe festivals, in Edinburgh and London. 

I had progressed to become a duty theatre manager at two local theatres, when a colleague suggested a job at the local hospital as a physiotherapy assistant. I didn’t really know what the job was, but thought I would give it a try. 

For the next 13 years, I was a physiotherapy assistant with Medway Community Healthcare. 

Then, after completing an NVQ level 3 in diagnostic and therapeutic support, I was upgraded to technical instructor. 

But in the evening, I continued my work in the theatre. It was only when I met husband that I decided to give it up and focus on my role with the NHS.

How did you become an advanced technical instructor?

When I moved from inpatients to musculoskeletal and hydrotherapy, I was made up to senior technical instructor. I became the lead in hydrotherapy and for joint replacements. 

My employer is very supportive and encourages career progression at all levels and it was suggested that I undertake a foundation degree in health and social care. I completed this at Canterbury Christ Church University. 

Then came the offer of extending this to a BSc honours in health and social care. With the support of my employer, I turned my foundation degree into a first class honours. 

I could not have achieved this without the support of my wonderful colleagues, who were always ready to sound out ideas.

My employer wanted to recognise my achievement and created an advanced technical instructor post, where I took on more responsibility for classes. This has included becoming the lead for Pilates and mentoring the apprentices and sports therapy students.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

Motivation and education is a passion. This is where I get most job satisfaction. I provide information so that every individual can understand what is happening to their body and how they can help themselves.

And the challenges of being a technical instructor?

The biggest challenge is skill recognition. My career path and education were not linear, and I consider myself fortunate to have colleagues and an employer who encourage me to fulfil my potential.

Across the industry, employers may not be so forward thinking. There is no industry standard of role or training. Confusion between employers and colleagues in defining a technical instructor’s capabilities is understandable. But with thoughtful use of staff, encouragement and appropriate training, technical instructors can play a significant role in rehabilitation and reducing waiting lists.

What next for you?

I am very happy in my current role. I am focusing on Pilates and on how, as a department, we can meet the demand for high-quality classes. 

I am also completing another Pilate’s qualification. And I am looking forward to mentoring our new sports therapy graduate. We are very proud of her. She came to us for work experience, then as a student and is now joining the team as a colleague. 

How do you relax?

I love to read, garden and have begun running with a local group, achieving my first 5k. Although my greatest pleasure is being with our foster children, playing games and watching them grow.

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