Document Type

Capstone Experience

Graduation Date


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Health Promotion

First Committee Member

Melissa Tibbits

Second Committee Member

Christopher Wichman

Third Committee Member

Meaghann Weaver


This study examined the feasibility and acceptability of a massage therapy intervention for pediatric palliative care patients and their adult caregivers to reduce their symptom impact at an urban pediatric hospital in Omaha, NE. Potential symptoms to be impacted by massage included stress for caregivers and pain, nausea, dyspnea, and anxiety for children. One hundred and thirty five massages were delivered to patients and caregivers in the PICU, NICU, and the inpatient hospital floor during the course of this non-randomized, pre-post study. Validated instruments were used to collect objective data from patients and caregivers, while observations were used to record subjective data from the experience. Nurse surveys were administered to seek feedback on bedside caregiver evaluations of massage. Massages lasted approximately 10 minutes per child and caregiver. Changes in FLACC scores for children and NCCN Distress Thermometer scores for primary and secondary caregivers after the massage intervention were found to be significant with p < 0.0001 for all scores using Wilcoxon’s signed rank test. Notable positive qualitative observations were present 34.8% of the time. RN’s were very positive in their evaluation and acceptance of massage as a positive experience for their patients and families. Results prove that children and caregivers find massage an acceptable method of providing symptom relief. Based on the results, creation of a full time massage therapist position at the urban Omaha, NE pediatric hospital should be sought. A full time massage therapist position will increase the amount of massages given on a weekly basis, which will positively impact symptom relief for palliative care patients and their adult caregivers in the hospital.