Kingsport, TN

Crockett Class Pioneers Emergency Training

John M. Dabbs

Davy Crockett was a frontiersman. He helped pave the way for others through his actions. The students at David Crockett High School carry out the Crockett tradition.
Crockett EMT ClassJohn Dabbs/photographer

First Class

This semester, Teacher Hollie Backburg taught the inaugural high school EMT class. EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) are the fundamental licensed medical person who can run ambulances in the United States. Backberg's class of eight Crockett students completed the national EMT cirriculum as dual-enrollment students in cooperation with Northeast State Community College.


The course was well planned, as books and materials for the course run into the thousands of dollars. Grants helped fund the additional equipment and supplies for the program. Additional insurance requirements were handled through the Washington County Department of Education. "Most people do not realize the coordiation and funding strategies required to pull new programs together," said Backberg. "We've been really lucky and had lots of support from the community."

Interested students were required to complete a vetting process. The process included interviews and a parent orientation.

Cooperation from stakeholders

Stakeholders were very supportive of the program. They came together to provide the resources, talent, and materials to make the program a success. Northeast State Community College's Regional Center for Health Professions worked with Washington County Department of Education and David Crockett High School to submit the required paperwork and arrange for psychomotor testing at their Kingsport campus.

Dan Wheeley, Executive Director of Washington County-Johnson City EMS, supported the program and worked with Backberg. Wheeley made the county ambulance service's equipment and personnel available to students. This move allowed students the ability to gain clinical training experience under the supervision of qualified paramedics and EMTs of their local EMS agency.

The program is a blessing for the local EMS agency, as qualified personnel are becoming harder to find. After graduation, the students completing the program will be eligible for state licensing as EMTs. The program fullfills all requirements for national certification through the National Registry of EMTs, but a license to practice is required by the state, as with most jurisdictions.


Backberg has taught the Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) class at Crockett, as have other high school health occupations classes in the region:

  • Bristol Tennessee High School
  • Daniel Boone High School
  • Greene Technology Center
  • Hancock County High School
  • Sullivan Central High School
  • Unicoi County High School
  • Volunteer High School

The Department of Health began the High-School First Responder/EMR program to keep up with the demand for emergency medical responders with volunteer fire departments and rescue squads. The recent demands of the EMS workforce nation-wide led the state to look at upgrading the high school EMR program to an EMT program.

EMRs are routinely used by non-transport EMS units, such as rescue squad and fire units. Licensed EMTs are required to transport patients and provide medical care enroute to hospitals. Washington County EMS' Dan Wheeley was instrumental in moving the high-school EMT program forward.

Crockett's EMR program was the ideal program to upgrade. Hollie Backberg is a licensed paramedic and also holds EMT instructor credentials from the Tennessee Department of Health's Office of Emergency Medical Services. She has taught EMT classes at Northeast State Community College in addition to her job at David Crockett High School.

Testing to completion
EMT Candidates in psychomotor exam sessionJohn Dabbs/Photographer

Crockett's class of EMT candidates completed their coursework in school, and completed their psychomotor examinations at the Northeast State campus in Kingsport last Friday. Additional training and preparation for the next round of examinations take place this week.

Candidates will take their cognitive exams after additional preparation and more skills practice. The knowledge and skills they've gained enable them to be valuable community assets. While not all will likely go into EMS for a career, those with an EMS training background often continue into nursing and medical schools. The training gives them an edge where they can excel and be even better in their chosen vocation.

Taking the pledge

Though the students have yet to fulfill all licensing requirements (they must pass all exams and graduate high school), they took the oath. The 2021 EMT class of David Crockett High School swore to the EMT Oath at the conclusion of their psychomotor exam. The Oath was administered by an official of the state Office of EMS.

The candidates make us all proud, and we welcome them in a world where we need more caring professionals.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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