Medicine & Nursing Mental Health & Counseling

Fresh Eyes

September 10, 2022

The attending doctor at the hospital where I work comes in on Monday morning, his first day on after seven days off. Not long after he logs into his computer and begins perusing patient charts, he begins to make little noises: a sigh here, a tsk, tsk there, and wonders aloud to himself how this could have been missed or overlooked. Now to be sure, these are not usually big misses or negligent items, but rather nuances in treatment that people simply look at differently. However, sometimes things are caught that do impact patient care. 

This phenomenon is called fresh eyes. We as healthcare providers can take care of a patient for three or four days or longer and get caught up in certain aspects of their treatment, focusing here or there, and sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. A new, fresh perspective can make a difference. 

I have been on the receiving end of that particular doctor’s fresh eyes firsthand. When he comes on duty, I have usually been seeing my patients for a few days already. While reviewing the charts, he says offhandedly to me, “Oh, I ordered an iron panel for your patient in room 425.” He has noticed something that could benefit, something I have overlooked, missed, or not considered worthy of attention. At first when he did this, I took it hard: is he criticizing me? Does he think less of me for missing something? Will he not trust me anymore? One day I talked to him about this, and he brought the “fresh eyes” phenomenon to my attention. I have come to appreciate it. One of the keys that led me to appreciation was reviewing my own sensitivity: was I concerned about my reputation or rather what was best for the patient? 

When I was a practicing nurse in the ICU, we would sometimes call in another nurse to take a look at our patient. Something wasn’t right; what did he or she notice or observe that I had missed? They would often look over things and then ask me a few questions or make some suggestions. Maybe an arterial blood gas would help us out here; maybe a quick review of medication side effects would shed some light. Fresh eyes could make all the difference. 

As parents we have experienced this as well. Many times through the fog of history, bias, and experiences we could not see clearly what truth was in dealing with our children. In one instance, a brother felt I was enabling my son too much by helping him out of tight spots. In another situation, our immediate families felt like we had given up too soon when we should be considering more intense therapy. We needed someone else’s perspective, another set of eyes to give us a fresh look. We have found this to be invaluable. 

What about the problems and challenges we face in our church circles and congregations? History and familiarity swirl about our heads, and over time offenses stand in the way like prickly sentinels, preventing progress. Sometimes leadership has washed their hands of these situations, saying, Well, we tried or They just need to give in. Others can cite family lines and the genetics of the problem. Still others have simply given up hope that change is possible. 

You may have worked with an issue or situation for twenty years and this means something. Your experiences and perspective on an issue are not invalid or unnecessary. They are both valid and necessary. But if you’ve been working with an issue for so long, it also means prejudice has crept in, opinions have become slanted, and you are very likely carrying a heavy weight of backstory.  

Our faith tradition of inviting two evangelists to preach to us at our yearly congregational revival is a practical example of fresh eyes in action. 

To have fresh eyes take a look at a situation can be an important step in anyone’s progress and healing. To have a third party—unbiased, disconnected, with no history—can be valuable. Perhaps they bring fresh compassion to a case, compassion that, through the muddy morass of time and rubbing shoulders closely, has worn off a little. They bring a new and listening ear to the game, maybe some tools to rebuild the bridges that have fallen into the river rapids of complicated life. Because it’s no surprise that longstanding situations could have burned some bridges. 

Jesus was fresh eyes. The Pharisees and Sadducees thought they had things figured out: they knew the ropes, the situations, who was clean and who wasn’t. The crippled man at the pool figured he knew the drill and I’m sure everyone around him did too. 

I have been on the receiving end of fresh eyes and it’s been exactly that: refreshing. I was trying to figure things out, trying to help, to give the right guidance, but in reality I was missing some vital points. From a new perspective, other suggestions were made and I came to see it from a new direction. However, I will say that the journey to “refreshing” is not always easy. Our pride can very easily stand in the way: our reputation may be at risk, our ego might be bruised, our position, expertise or experience threatened. But again, is the focus on us or the situation, client, patient, or brother that needs help? 

Are there pitfalls and potholes to fresh eyes? Sure, of course, we’d be surprised if there weren’t. Fresh eyes do not have the backstory, the whole burrito as it were. They don’t get all the family dynamics perhaps, and they certainly don’t get how hard we’ve all tried. But let’s not allow some of those risks to shut down a new perspective. Does it hurt us to consider a fresh look?

Fresh eyes can see details others have missed. Fresh eyes can save lives. 


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