The Physician Assistant Is Ready to See You Now

Clay Kiihnl, PA-C with PatientIn the Physician Assistant (PA) profession, the word assistant often draws a common misconception, one with which board certified Orthopaedic PA, Clay Kiihnl (Ky-Nail) is all too familiar.

“The terminology used to describe PAs sometimes gives patients the impression that they aren’t receiving quality care,” said Kiihnl, who practices at the MPOC Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Clinic, an affiliate of White River Health System in Batesville. “Telling a patient that they are going to be seen by someone with the word ‘assistant’ in their title tends to create a sense of fear and anxiety.”

Kiihnl says PAs, just as other providers such as Nurse Practitioners (NPs), are licensed medical providers who undergo extensive education and training to ensure that they are equipped to provide patients with quality care. Both PA and many NP professions require close collaboration with physicians in a team model.

As a PA, there are many things Kiihnl can do independently, such as give patients medical advice, order tests, prescribe medications, and perform minor procedures. Each state is different in what they allow PAs to do. In Arkansas, PAs cannot perform solo surgeries.

With a focus in Orthopaedics, Kiihnl is qualified to apply casts and splints, and give injections. He also developed a special clinic to prevent broken bones in patients with Osteoporosis.

“PAs such as Clay are great assets in the medical field,” said Dr. Jeff Angel, Orthopaedic Surgeon, and Kiihnl’s collaborating physician.

“They assist with the growing number of patients needing medical care, and, as a physician, I am comforted in knowing the patients at our clinic are well taken care of by Clay.”

Kiihnl received his Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with an emphasis in Biology from Harding University in Searcy. He also obtained a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Harding, which was the first school in the state to offer a PA program. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock began a PA program in 2015.

“Until 2005, when Harding began offering their PA program, students had to go out of state to become a PA, so it wasn’t a very popular or well-known field,” said Kiihnl. “Now PAs are becoming more common; however there are still many patients who aren’t familiar with what a PA is, or what a PA does.”

The training PAs receive is similar to a condensed Medical School, according to Kiihnl. “We are exposed to every area of medicine during our General Medicine Training, which is why we are required to commit thousands of hours to our education and training.”

While in school, PAs are trained under the medical-physician training model. PA school is a 28-month program that consists of more than 1000 hours in the classroom, more than 2000 hours in the clinic, and, depending on the specialty, an additional 12 to 24 months in a residency program. Certified PAs are required to have 100 education hours every two years, and take a recertification exam every 10 years.

“Because of our training, we have a lot of options when it comes to seeing and treating patients, but we still work closely with physicians,” said Kiihnl. “We are more of collaborators than assistants. Regardless of our title we all have one united goal, and that goal is to provide our patients with quality care.”

Clay Kiihnl, PA-C, can be reached by calling the MPOC Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Clinic at (870) 793-2371.