Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Physician Assistants Growing Profession

Q. When I was at my doctor's office yesterday I was treated first by a woman who introduced herself as a "Physician Assistant."  She looked like a nurse to me, but she acted as if she was the doctor and ordered all my tests before I saw him. I wonder what they do and what kind of training they need, and maybe it will be a good career for me. I like helping people and am interested in the medical field, but I certainly can't spend all the time and money needed to become a doctor.

Ans. Physician Assistants are becoming better known as the medical field is changing, doctors are short-handed and there is a greater need for professionals to help them. Working under the watchful eye of physicians and surgeons, these professionals are trained to examine and diagnose patients too. The most common duties they perform are ordering some exams and helping to interpret results, treating scrapes, sprains and strains, taking some tests, asking patients questions to record medical histories and making some house calls or hospital visits to provide information back to the physician. It can be an excellent career choice for people like you. You'll need two years of college, then complete a two-year, full-time physician assistant program. Then you must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam. Once you've done all that, try to not "act like a doctor." Obviously, it confuses patients.

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