When the storm of COVID-19 hit NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital last spring, Ian Saludares, the patient care director in the ICU unit, faced enormous challenges. He led a unit that had to increase its bed capacity, managed a schedule that was continuously impacted by staff who needed to quarantine, and worked to stay on top of ever-changing guidance and information about the virus.
But even amid all the chaos, Saludares knew how important it was to find a moment to check in and listen. “I needed to make sure I continued to build trust with my team — that they knew that I had their back,” he says. “And that they felt my presence more than ever in the unit.”
This spring, as his team recovers from the stress of the pandemic, many members are also dealing with the anxiety of racist incidents.
Recently Saludares invited one of his AAPI team members into his office. “I asked, ‘Are you OK? How is your day going?’” he remembers. “And then she just started crying. She was worried for her safety. She said, ‘Ian, I cannot even go out to do my groceries. I go out with pepper spray ready.’ I wanted her to know that her concerns are valid, and as a leader it’s my responsibility to be able to support her.”
While Saludares hasn’t experienced a violent hate incident, he does know the pain of the subtle digs. Saludares came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 26. On the first day of his job at a nursing home, he was being introduced by his manager when one of his colleagues commented, “Wow, another one fresh off the boat.” The phrase puzzled him at first, but he later realized that it was a microaggression insulting his immigrant status. Saludares has made a successful career and life for himself as an immigrant, and remains proud of his Filipino heritage, always carrying that spirit of warmth and celebration. And he works every day to learn from a team that is diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, and age. “I am always ready to listen, to give them space to be able to express or talk,” he says.
And while Saludares has done his share of listening this past year, he’s also been inspired to speak up. “With all the things that have been happening in the community, we have to call it out, put it out in the open,” he says. “Have your voice heard and stand up.”