Physician's Associate, Physician's Assistant, it's all the same--but not the same as a Nurse Practitioner. Still unstandardized, PA training programs (listed here in an appendix) vary from four-year college majors to one- or two-year courses with some college and/or patient experience as a prerequisite. Authorization to practice and designated responsibilities are also in flux, but the typical days observed here seem to confirm Cavallaro's assertion that PAs--who take medical school courses right alongside future MDs--do indeed practice medicine, even to writing prescriptions (though often these must be okayed by MDs). Unsurprisingly, the AMA sets limits to PAs' authority and in some states PAs can only be employed by doctors, not by hospitals. Often acknowledged to do a better job on routine procedures than impersonal, overworked MDs, they are thus a boon to employers at the present $12,000-$16,000 starting salary and $20,000-$22,000 top. (Significantly, of the four PAS visited here, two are women, one a black immigrant, and one an orphaned male who couldn't afford med school.) But the profession is new and already PAs are making demands--for more autonomy and, quite reasonably, for reed school credit for the med school courses they complete during their training. A field worth watching.