As I might’ve alluded to in a few earlier posts, there’s a fair bit of preparation involved before going to work in Antarctica. One of these Antarctic rituals is getting PQed. Personal Quality. Private Questioning. Panic, Quick! Personality Quantification. Parental Quirks.
Physical Qualification can involve all these things, and more! PQ is an abbreviation, a noun, and a verb.
The idea is that there are limited medical facilities in Antarctica, and transportation out of Antarctica is expensive and weather dependent. So, we want to minimize the chances of medical problems on The Ice. People working for the US Antarctic Program (USAP) must therefore go through some standardized checkups to make sure they aren’t going South with problems that might need to get resolved during their time there.
Depending on a person’s age, sex, history, and contract, there will be different sets of required tests. Generally speaking; if you’re a woman, older, or have a longer contract, then you’ll need to pass more tests than if you’re a man, younger, or working a shorter contract.
I’m sorta in the middle in terms of how much I need to do. I don’t need a pregnancy test, do need a chest X ray, don’t need a prostate exam, do need a psychological evaluation.
Tests are divided into three sections; medical, dental, and psychological. Costs of testing are covered by the program. If treatment – normally dental work – needs to get done, that is paid for by the employee. “Applicant” is actually the word used in the forms, rather than “employee”, since these offers of employment are contingent on passing the PQ regime.
My medical stuff this time around was pretty straightforward, and mostly taken care of when I was in Madison for my interview in May. A few additional blood tests were required, which were easily done in Christchurch.
There is often a back-and-forth with the medical and dental sections; the employee goes to a checkup with the standard USAP paperwork (this year’s Medical Packet), paperwork gets filled out and sent back to a contractor. The contractor has doctors and dentists who look over results and might require other tests or treatments be done, or give the dreaded NPQ verdict – Not Physically Qualified.
Dental PQs require that any outstanding issues be resolved, and that the employee have any wisdom teeth removed that could cause issue. I had to get a crown installed for this part of the process – a $1400 surprise, but I got a fun plaster cast out of it! The dental checkup and crown installation involved three visits to a dentist here in Madison. My permanent crown was installed yesterday, and boy am I glad to be done with the temporary one!
Psychological evaluations usually happen in Denver, I’m planning on getting that done in a few weeks. Will update with how that goes.