Closer Look

Nurse finds solace in photography hobby

Avatar photo

Emma Cait Breeden

With demanding and difficult careers, having a creative outlet can be crucial to finding balance. Dawn Obrieter, certified medical assistant at Angel Primary Care, has a great passion for photography.

“I do recommend for everyone to find something fun or something that gives you joy outside of work,” said Obrieter.

In the Franklin lab where she takes blood and conducts tests for such conditions as flu and strep, is a wall of framed 8-inch by 10-inch photographs mostly depicting nature scenes. On any given day, one of those photographs may be missing. Why? Because if a patient expresses admiration and interest in a particular photograph, Obrieter has gifted it to him or her. 

For many years, Obrieter’s work environment was much more tumultuous than where she has chosen to use her skills during the post-retirement portion of her career. She served as a paramedic for 25 years in Kalamazoo, Mich. However, after working a severe multiple car pile-up during a blizzard, she decided she had had enough of cold weather and trauma. 

The accident encouraged her to hang up her paramedic hat and move south, even though she held her job as a paramedic in high esteem. 

“It was very satisfying to be able to help people and I loved the experiences,” she said, adding, “I had visited Western North Carolina previously and actually felt like this was home.” 

Once settled here in 2010, she began job hunting. 

“When I moved to Franklin, I found out the hospital was opening Angel Primary Care. I applied and got a job. We started in a very small office with two doctors and two medical assistants and a receptionist.” 

DAWN OBRIETER is a certified medical assistant at Angel Primary Care and also has had a lifelong passion for photography.

Solace through a camera lens

“Working in the medical field certainly can be stressful and rewarding at any time,” said Obrieter. “Every day is different.” 

Yet, while enjoying her career choice, she determined that her lifelong passion for photography was a way to focus on something other than healthcare. 

“I have been interested in taking pictures for as long as I can remember. I bought a $5 Kodak movie camera at a garage sale when I was in high school in 1977.” 

This passion followed her from childhood and all the way through her career, and living in Macon County has added depth to her creativity.

“I just see pictures almost everywhere I go,” said Obrieter. “Western North Carolina is a treasure trove of opportunities.”

Obrieter made the decision to decorate her lab with her own photography. 

“I decided to display some of my photography in the lab just because there was a large blank wall and everything in the lab was a different tone of beige. The photography adds splashes of color. The patients seemed to like [the photographs].”

She pointed out that she values the chances to connect with her patients and staff over their similar passions, and she shares with them the joy she has found in photography. 

Obrieter plans to retire at the end of this year. 

“I would like to travel around the United States,” she said. “I have always had to work a full-time job, even while raising three boys. They are adults now and I look forward to spending time with them and my grandkids!” 

And, she plans to take lots of photographs. 

“I will continue taking photos until I physically can’t anymore.”

Emma Cait Breeden is a senior and an honors student at Franklin High School.