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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A University of Tennessee program that has trained more than 4,000 hospital critical care nurses will celebrate its 25th anniversary tonight.

“Nurses involved in critical care must have both technical skills and the ability to integrate complex information about critically ill patients,” said associate director Penny Vaughan.

The 140-hour critical care program, established in 1971 by 14 Middle Tennessee hospitals and UT’s Center for Government Training, extended to other units what had been learned in the 1960s about improved care of heart patients.

The critical care program became a continuing education activity of the university in 1979.

And, for nearly a decade, the program provided critical care training for hospital and ambulance service paramedics.

The program’s first director, Norma J. Shepard, will be honored at the dinner. She retired in 1987.

Fourteen nurses have been nominated to receive the first Norma Shepard Award for Excellence in Critical Care Nursing. The award is based on commitment to high-quality patient care and life-long learning, competency in providing highly sophisticated patient care, and compassion for critically ill patients and their families.

The anniversary dinner will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Opryland Hotel’s Magnolia ballroom.