CNHC Registrant Nicola Stewart has been working as a massage therapist for 20 years. As well as running her successful practice she has authored a popular guide to massage. Together with Melinda Edwards MBE, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who has worked as a paediatric psychologist with both children and their families for over 30 years, Nicola has set up In Touch - a free massage service for parents and carers of children in hospital. Here Nicola talks about how the idea for In Touch came about, the work they are doing and how they overcame the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
Having experienced the physical and emotional exhaustion of lengthy hospital admissions with my son, I was determined to support other parents by providing a free massage service to improve their wellbeing whilst staying in hospital with their children.
There is compelling evidence that having a sick child in hospital can have a profound and challenging impact on a parent's psychological wellbeing. For example, almost two-thirds of parents scored in the borderline clinical range for anxiety and stress after spending at least three days in hospital with their child (See Parental anxiety and stress during children’s hospitalisation: The Stay Close study, Wray et al, 2011).
In addition to the psychological stress (which is in itself exhausting), parents and carers are also often physically exhausted. Poor sleep, lack of physical activity and being out of their normal routines contribute to this.
As a mother of a son born four months prematurely with complex needs, I am very aware of the exhaustion that can be a consequence of caring. But as a professional massage therapist, I know that massage would have been an effective treatment for a number of the symptoms I experienced.
Melinda Edwards MBE, who is a paediatric psychologist, and I share a mutual desire to improve parental wellbeing. We applied for charitable funding from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and as a result, In Touch Massage was born.
During the COVID-19 crisis I have been unable to provide physical massage to parents and carers in person, but we have adapted the way we work so that we can continue to provide a service for those most in need. We have done this by delivering online massage workshops, by making guided massage videos and by writing blogs with self-care tips and tricks.
Although I miss the physical contact, working from my desk has re-ignited my passion for research and has opened my eyes to alternative approaches.
Our conversations with staff and parents have been extremely positive about the benefits of our massage service and over the coming months we would like to evaluate our In Touch Massage project with the aim of developing a sustainable service to parents as well as exploring the opportunities to develop a service for staff. I hope to be sharing the results of our evaluation in a future blog post.
Find out more
In Touch Massage has been supported by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity (who work with Guy’s and St Thomas' Foundation Trust) and is endorsed by Evelina London Children’s Hospital. If you would like more information, please contact Nicola at firstname.lastname@example.org