I Am a Rural School Psychologist

By: Kari Oyen, NASP GPR Committee Member, South Dakota President Elect

There, I said it.  I'm the department chair and the best School Psychologist in the district.  Ok, so maybe I'm the only school psychologist in the district, but who's counting all of those little details!?!  I am among a whole system of rural school psychologists that are working tirelessly everyday to ensure students get access to supports that they need.  The role of the rural school psychologist has expanded in the last decade and as rural school psychologists, we are left to try to figure out how to provide high quality mental health services where, quite honestly, they do not exist.  In South Dakota, we have approximately 110 school psychologists serving over 77,000 square miles.  In our state, we have two major cities, who often house our largest number of school psychologists (approximately 20).  This often means that for the rest of our population, we are often the only school psychologist around for miles.

What does this mean for our practice?  Because of the rural nature of our practice, we have to be creative in the ways that we network and share information.  I'm only an email, Skype call, or webinar away from connecting with fellow school psychologists to problem solve unique situations that arise.  Additionally, we have made use of social media platforms (Facebook (South Dakota Association of School Psychologists) and Twitter (@ SDSchoolPsychs)) to share relevant information to keep us up to date on current evidenced-based practices for students.  SDASP even recently made a video to highlight our practices as rural school psychologists.

Additionally, as rural school psychologists, we have come to rely heavily on NASP communities, position papers, and the plethora of resources on the website to stay connected to other experts in the field.  By creating a network of professionals, the lens changes from being the "lone ranger" in a school district to being a part of a larger picture of working professionals serving in an underserved rural setting.  As rural school psychologists, we have the opportunities to make a difference in the lives of children today and every day.  So, as we examine our role and impact, remember the power of one and the impact you can make on students, wherever you are!