In an effort to resolve what some define as a crisis in health care, medical paraprofessionals have become an increasing part of the primary care scene. As the training and use of paraprofessionals expands there has been growing insistence that much of what office-based physicians do could be handled as well or better by these non-physicians. If it is health policy to encourage the use of paraprofessionals to alleviate the shortages and maldistribution of primary care doctors, acceptance of these personnel by the public is a critical issue.

A study of the public in a Midwest area suggests considerable variability in willingness to accept a trained person other than a doctor to do several tasks usually considered within the domain of the physician. The findings show that the typical demographic and attitudinal variables do little to explain differences in public willingness to accept paraprofessionals. However, the context in which service is delivered is suggested as a possible explanation of acceptance. Several policy relevant issues are discussed, including the need to provide settings for medical care that will maximize public willingness to be treated by non-physicians.