Profession
  • Honoring Goldie Brangman

    The author of this article is Jasmine Gonzales, BSN, CCRN, RN, a nurse anesthesia student at Union University, in Jackson, Tennessee, and a member of the AANA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

    In honor of Women’s History Month, we must pay tribute to the legacy of a nurse anesthesia pioneer. She broke glass ceilings for women and people of color when she started a nurse anesthesia program in Harlem that accepted minority students, a rarity in the 1940s. She also became the first African American President of the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA). It is an honor to get to highlight the life of Goldie Brangman, MEd, MBA, CRNA.

    As a nurse anesthesia student, the top three things I learned from the life of Ms. Brangman are perseverance, the importance of service, and resilience. As a first-generation college student, I see myself in Brangman in many ways. I have learned from her legacy to break my own glass ceilings to get to my goal of being part of the 3.3% that represent Latino nurse anesthetists. Through every obstacle that I have faced, I remain resilient and make each one a learning opportunity just as she did when applying to anesthesia programs. Lastly, her legacy shows that we should be lifelong servers to our profession and community. My current position as student representative on the AANA DEI committee is the beginning of my contribution to the CRNA community. In the future, I plan to continue to serve on committees so that my voice will make a difference for minority generations to come, evolving the nurse anesthesia profession.

    Brangman was born in Maryland on Oct. 2, 1920. After volunteering for the Red Cross she attended the Harlem Hospital Center’s nursing program, graduating in 1943. She then went on to work at Harlem Hospital, where she found her love for anesthesia. During World War II, Goldie Brangman was one of nurses at the City Hospital of New York were asked to give anesthesia because most male doctors who away at war. She initially helped with inductions and maintenance of obstetric patients.

    After her experiences at Harlem Hospital, she decided she wanted to attend a formal nurse anesthesia program. However, she didn’t know the barriers that were ahead of her. In the 1940s, it was challenging to find an anesthesia school that would grant admission to people of color. Brangman and her classmate Arcelia Williams applied to several schools. They were ready to move their lives to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Meharry Medical College, a historically black medical school, when a turn of events allowed them to stay in Harlem. Dr. Helen Mayer saw Brangman and Arcelia’s passion for anesthesia and offered to teach them anesthesia and help Brangman start an anesthesia school in Harlem.

    Countless days of class and nights of training at the hospital prepared them to sit for the certification exam. After passing the board certification exam, Brangman went on to open the Harlem Hospital School of Nurse Anesthesia. The program opened its doors in 1949 and welcomed nurses of all races and ethnicities. In all-inclusive environment, Brangman and Dr. Mayer made sure that they trained their nurse anesthetists to be as competent or even better than their physician colleagues. Brangman remained the program director for 38 years, educating approximately 750 students.
    In addition to her pioneering work as an educator, Brangman continued to provide anesthesia to patients. A hallmark moment for Brangman’s anesthesia career was providing anesthesia care for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after an attempted assassination on September 20, 1958.

    Goldie Brangman not only had an impact on the education of hundreds of nurse anesthesia students but also on the profession. In 1959, Brangman was elected president of the New York State Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NYANA). NYANA has established an award for students bearing her name. In 1973-74, she became the first African American to serve as president of the AANA. In 2018, the AANA established an annual lecture bearing her name that takes place during the Congress.

    Until her last years of life, Brangman continued to serve others. In her retiring years, she moved to Hawaii and continued to volunteer for the Red Cross- receiving the Ann Magnussen Award in 1996 for 67 years of service. On Feb. 9, 2020, she passed away, leaving behind a legacy that would continue to inspire nurse anesthetists, of all races and cultural backgrounds, for generations to come.

     

    References

    1). Clipping from the Honolulu advertiser. (2007, October 30).

    2). Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/52015388/the-honolulu-advertiser/

    3). CRNA legend Goldie Brangman shares story of treating Dr. Martin Luther King. (2020, January 9).

    4). Nurse.org. https://nurse.org/articles/nurse-anesthetist-crna-goldie-brangman-saved-MLK/

    5). Ep 122: How Goldie Brangman, CRNA, Broke Barriers Throughout Her Life. (2021, April 1).

    6). On Beyond the mask podcast [Apple Podcast].

    7). How Harlem hospital School of nurse anesthesia was born. (n.d.). AANA. https://www.aana.com/about-us/aana-diversity-and-inclusion/how-harlem-hospital-school-of-nurse-anesthesia-was-born

    8). Recognizing African-American leaders in the nursing world. (2020, April 21). WCUI. https://wcui.edu/blog-post/recognizing-african-american-leaders-in-the-nursing-world/