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Professor Joan Simons


Professor of Health Studies, Head of School, Health Wellbeing and Social Care, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies

Profile summary

Professional biography

Joan is Head of School for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies based at the Open University.

Her background is in adult education, management, leadership and coaching as well as adult and children's nursing, burns nursing, community health and pain management research.  Joan has held a number of posts in nurse education management  and worked as a research fellow at the Institute of Child Health.

Joan is an expert in the field of adult education applied to practice. Her distinctive intellectual contribution comes from a strengths based position, focussing on those in society who are underprivileged or at a disadvantage in their ability to achieve their potential, and at the same time recognising the best of what is, to enhance students experience, so that they can meet their study goals and truly experience life changing learning. 

Awards and Accreditation

Joan is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in recognition of her strategic leadership in influencing student learning. 

Joan was awarded a Travel Scholarship from the Florence Nightingale Foundation in 2012 to undertake an appreciative enquiry project on international practice in the management of children's pain. This meant spending time at three study sites in the UK, Sweden and Australia. On completion of the Travel Scholarship project, the information was collated and Joan developed a new model of pain management, that harnessed the best practice from all three study sites. This model focuses on the confidence of nurses and the involvement of parents to improve the management of their children's pain post surgery. The model was published in Pain Magagement Nursing Journal in 2015. 

WellChild the National Charity for Sick Children provided funding for a feaability study on the innovative pain managment framework. This involved interviews with specailist pain management teams in children's units and children's hospitals across the UK, resulting in three online assets for practitioners and parents, that have been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing. 

Joan is currently working on developing a resource for parents to facilitate their involvement in the management of their child's pain in hospital.

Extending her work on exploring how to improve the management of children's pain in hospital, Joan has secured funding from the General Nursing Council Trust to work with colleagues to explore the views and perspectives of parents, children and young people and nurses. 

Recognising the rise in the number of students who are studying with a mental health difficulty, Joan is working with colleagues to identify best practice in the provision of support by tutors for students who have a mental health difficulty. 


Research interests

Joan’s research expertise is in both distance learning and the management of pain, and allied interests concern child health, childhood obesity and parenting.

Pain management has received a higher profile in recent years and a situation has now developed where the knowledge of pain management is lagging behind the delivery of evidence based pain management. There are now standards for pain management, in particular for acute pain in children, but there is little evidence that nurses have managed to meet these standards. Nurses are aware of the need to improve the pain management of children but there is a recognised lack of provision of education on how best to manage children's pain.

Joan's work has addressed the paucity of practice based research in the management of childrren's pain through the publication of an influential book on children's, parents' and practitioners' stories of children's pain as well as articles on the expertise of parents in managing the pain of their child with complex needs.

Joan’s work has also focussed on the health and wellbeing of children and in particular how to tackle the pressing challenge of childhood obesity. Joan has edited three online editions of Journal of Child Health Care on Childhood Obesity, Adolescence and Learning Disability.   

Teaching interests

Joan has demonstrated excellent innovative practice in her scholarship work, situated in a strengths based approach, in recognition of the multiple challenges and disadvantages of part time students. Her approach to innovation is rooted in a stance of conceptualizing resilience, where students faced with a challenge have the ability, through support, to adjust to that challenge and continue with their studies. Joan’s focus has been to identify what students value and the coping mechanisms they utilize in the face of adversity that enables them to succeed, as well as the institutional factors that students identify as contributing to them achieving their study goals.

Joan has led on five funded scholarship projects, firstly on a level 1 gateway module exploring student resilience followed by an appreciative inquiry project exploring the antecedents and consequences of graduate success so that the factors identified as promoting success, could be reinforced and supported, but also to identify where graduates had found employment.  

The third study involved a deep dive on data relating to students who non formally withdraw from a high population level one distance learning module. The aim of the project was to identify the unvoiced needs of students who withdrew from the module in order to influence processes to provide support in future. Her fourth Faultly wide project, working with colleagues, focused on Employabilty and evaluating a wider understanding of how students benefit from studying at the OU in relation to three gains -  learning, working and personal gains, as outlined by Kellett and Clifton (2018). Her most recent study explored the views of  39 Associate Lecturers in relation to their knowledge, skills and experience of supporting students with a mental health difficulty. The findings are being used to develop a Confidence Framework for Associate Lecturers to use in supporting students. 

Joan is passionate about identifying and promoting teaching excellence and is overseeing a range of projects highlighting and rewarding the teaching excellence of colleagues in the Faculty of Wellbeing Education and Language Studies.




External collaborations

Joan has been an external examiner in a range of universities for over 25 years, including De Montfort Unviersity, Bournemouth University and Imperial College London. Her current External Examiner role is on the  Nursing programme at Brunel University. 

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Children and Young People Research GroupGroupFaculty of Health and Social Care


Externally funded projects

Exploring the feasibility of a new pain model for the management of children’s pain
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Jun 201831 Dec 2020WellChild

This project will involve exploring the feasibility of the new pain model of children’s pain management with specialist teams in children’s pain management across the UK.


The Benefits of the Disabled Veterans’ Scholarship Fund at the Open University, UK. (2022)
Simons, Joan; Snowden, Michael and Fairbairn, Kate
Journal of Veteran Studies ((In press))

Child-parent-nurse triad and its influence on children's pain management. (2022)
Simons, Joan
Evidence-Based Nursing ((Early access))

The voice of students from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background (2021-12-09)
Simons, Joan and Belton, Silice Patrice
Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 23(3) (pp. 137-146)

Interventions that prevent or reduce obesity in children from birth to five years of age: A systematic review (2021-06-01)
Narzisi, Katia and Simons, Joan
Journal of Child Health Care, 25(2) (pp. 320-334)

A qualitative study exploring the perceptions of part time distance learning students learning gain using the ‘Three Gains’ Employability model (2020-12)
Simons, Joan and Snowden, Michael
International Journal of Multidisciplinary Comparative Studies, 7(1 - 3) (pp. 5-18)

Success of distance learning graduates and the role of intrinsic motivation (2020)
Simons, Joan; Leverett, Stephen and Beaumont, Kythe
Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 35(3) (pp. 277-293)

Developing a framework to support the delivery of effective pain management for children: an exploratory qualitative study (2020)
Simons, Joan; Carter, Bernie and Craske, Jennie
Pain Research and Management, 2020, Article 5476425

What factors promote student resilience on a level 1 distance learning module? (2018)
Simons, Joan; Beaumont, Kythe and Holland, Lesley
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 33(1) (pp. 4-17)

Developing a Sense of Knowing and Acquiring the Skills to Manage Pain in Children with Profound Cognitive Impairments: Mothers’ Perspectives (2017-03-26)
Carter, Bernie; Arnott, Janine; Simons, Joan and Bray, Lucy
Pain Research and Management, 2017, Article 2514920

Anaesthetists' views of managing children's pain post-surgery (2017)
Simons, Joan; Carter, Bernie; Craske, Jennie; Parry, Sarah; Coles, Sally and Bennett, Michelle
Pain News, 15(4) (pp. 181-184)

Navigating Uncertainty: Health Professionals' Knowledge, Skill and Confidence in Assessing and Managing Pain in Children with Profound Cognitive Impairment (2016-12-22)
Carter, Bernie; Simons, Joan; Bray, Lucy and Arnott, Janine
Pain Research and Management, 2016, Article 8617182

A proposed model of the effective management of children's pain (2015-08-31)
Simons, Joan
Pain Management Nursing, 16(4) (pp. 570-578)

Hospital clowns boost healing through the power of laughter (2015-03-11)
Simons, Joan
Nursing Children and Young People, 27, Article 15(2)

Engaging with children in designing pain research: how to do it and is it worth the effort? (2015)
Carter, Bernie; Bray, Lucy; Satchwell, Candice and Simons, Joan
Pain News, 13(2) (pp. 121-124)

[Editorial] The challenges of adolescence (2014-10)
Kelsey, Janet and Simons, Joan
Journal of Child Health Care

Children’s experience of postoperative pain relief: children, parents and nurses use various pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches, particularly distraction (2014)
Simons, Joan
Evidence-Based Nursing, 17(3) (p 88)

[Editorial] Childhood Obesity (2013-06)
Simons, Joan; Carter, Bernie; Dey, Paolo and Ivey, Jean
Journal of Child Health Care

Preceptorship:ensuring the best possible start for new nurses (2013-02)
Harrison-White, Karen and Simons, Joan
Nursing Children and Young People, 25(1) (pp. 24-27)

An introduction to Q methodology (2013-01)
Simons, Joan
Nurse Researcher, 20(3) (pp. 28-32)

An international study on innovations in the management of children’s pain (2013)
Simons, Joan
International Practice Development Journal, 3, Article 4(2)

'Nurses do assess pain, they just don't write it down!' (2012-03)
Simons, Joan
Journal of Child Health Care, 16(1) (pp. 3-4)

Identifying medication errors in surgical prescription charts (2010-06)
Simons, Joan
Paediatric Nursing, 22(5) (pp. 20-24)

Influences of nurses' scoring of children's postoperative pain (2009-06)
Simons, Joan and Moseley, Laurence
Journal of Child Health Care, 13(2) (pp. 101-115)

Postoperative pain: the impact of prescribing patterns on nurses' administration of analgesia (2008-10)
Simons, Joan and Moseley, Laurence
Paediatric Nursing, 20(8) (14 -19)

Changing practice: implementing validated paediatric pain assessment tools (2006-06)
Simons, Joan and Macdonald, Louise M.
Journal of Child Health Care, 10(2) (pp. 160-176)

Pain assessment tools: children's nurses' views (2004-12)
Simons, J. M. and Macdonald, L. M.
Journal of Child Health Care, 8(4) (264 -278)

Poor communication and knowledge deficits: Obstacles to effective management of children's postoperative pain (2002-10)
Simons, Joan and Roberson, Elaine
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 40(1) (pp. 78-86)

An action research study exploring how education may enhance pain management in children (2002-02)
Simons, Joan
Nurse Education Today, 22(2) (pp. 108-117)

Parents' support and satisfaction with their child's postoperative care (2002)
Simons, Joan
British Journal of Nursing, 11(22) (pp. 1442-1449)

Parent involvement in children's pain care: views of parents and nurses (2001-11)
Simons, Joan; Franck, Linda and Roberson, Elaine
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 36(4) (pp. 591-599)

Growing pains (1999)
Simons, Joan
Paediatric Nursing, 11(5) (10 -11)

Young children in A&E: a local review (1999)
Simons, J. M.
Paediatric Nursing, 11(7) (pp. 24-27)

Perceptions of perfection: meeting women's postnatal needs (1995-06)
Simons, Joan
Primary Health Care, 5(6) (pp. 10-12)

Stories of Children’s Pain: Linking Evidence to Practice (2014-04)
Carter, Bernie and Simons, Joan
ISBN : 978-14462-0760-4 | Publisher : Sage | Published : London

Leadership and Vision (2013-08-27)
Simons, Joan and Lomax, Helen
In: MacKian, Sara and Simons, Joan eds. Leading, Managing, Caring (pp. 61-88)
ISBN : 9780415658515 | Publisher : Routledge in association with The Open University | Published : Abingdon

Developing a coaching style of management (2013-08-27)
Simons, Joan
In: MacKian, Sara and Simons, Joan eds. Leading, Managing, Caring (pp. 243-266)
ISBN : 9780415658515 | Publisher : Routledge in association with The Open University | Published : Abingdon

Managing Challenges (2013)
Simons, Joan
In: MacKian, Sara and Simons, Joan eds. Leading, Managing, Caring
ISBN : 9780415658515 | Publisher : Routledge in association with The Open University | Published : Abingdon

Above all else do no harm: an ethical evaluation of paediatric nurses management of children's pain (2011)
Simons, Joan
In: Brykczynska, Gosia M. and Simons, Joan eds. Ethical and Philosophical Aspects of Nursing Children and Young People (pp. 155-164)
ISBN : 9781405194143 | Publisher : Wiley-Blackwell | Published : Oxford

Integumentary system (2010-04-29)
Kelly, Jacinta and Simons, Joan
In: Coyne, Imelda; Neill, Emma and Timmins, Fiona eds. Clinical Skills in Children's Nursing (pp. 395-422)
ISBN : 978-0-19-955903-9 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

Understanding Health and Illness (2010)
Woodthorpe, Kate and Simons, Joan
In: Kubiak, Chris and Leach, Jonathan eds. Book 1 Exploring Health, Social Care and Wellbeing (pp. 28-50)
Publisher : The Open University | Published : The Open University

Leading, Managing, Caring: Understanding Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care (2013)
MacKian, Sara and Simons, Joan eds.
ISBN : 9780415658515 | Publisher : Routledge in association with The Open University | Published : Abingdon

Ethical and Philosophical Aspects of Nursing Children and Young People (2011-03-11)
Brykczynska, Gosia M. and Simons, Joan eds.
ISBN : 9781405194143 | Publisher : John Wiley and Sons Ltd | Published : Chichester

Graduates perceptions of success in online study: what makes a difference? (2018-10)
Simons, Joan and Leverett, Stephen
In : Global Online Summit (16-18 Oct 2018, Toronto)

Exploring the use of Activity Monitors with young people who have CFS/ME: a pilot study (2018-10)
Simons, Joan; Dalton, Glenda and Savory, Clive
In : Digital Health and Wellbeing Conference (1-3 May 2018, The Open University)

Theory And Empirical Research Of Children And Young People And Digital Food/Health Literacy (2018-05-01)
Cooper, Victoria; Narzisi, Katia; Simons, Joan; Tatlow-Golden, Mimi and Twiner, Alison
In : 2nd Digital Health and Wellbeing Conference (1-3 May 2018, Open University, Milton Keynes)

Supporting parents of children who have complex needs to assess and manage their children's pain: health care practitioners' perspectives. (2015)
Simons, Joan M.; Carter, Bernie; Bray, Lucy and Arnott, Janine
In : Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Annual Conference 2015 (28-30 Apr 2015, Birmingham)

Consulting with children prior to designing research: is it really worth the effort? (2014)
Carter, B.; Satchwell, C.; Simons, J. and Bray, L.
In : The 5th Congress of the European Academy of Paediatric Societies (EAPS) (17-21 Oct 2014, Barcelona, Spain)

The power of stories of children's pain (2013-06)
Carter, Bernie and Simons, Joan
In : 9th International Symposium on Pediatric Pain (17-20 Jun 2013, Stockholm, Sweden)

Identifying innovations in children's pain management project: an international perspective (2013-06)
Simons, Joan
In : 9th International Symposium on Pediatric Pain (17-20 Jun 2013, Stockholm, Sweden)

The effect of percussive therapy on musculoskeletal performance and perceptions of pain: A systematic narrative literature review. (2021-10-26)
Mackay, Lorna; Langdown, Ben; Simons, Joan and Vseteckova, Jitka

Parents in Health Care (2017-09-03)
Simons, Joan and Brown, Nicola
Journal of Child Health Care (Online Special Collection), SAGE