Forced out of the live-music lockdown frying pan in 2020, Georgia McDonald found herself in the healthcare pandemic fire instead. But the Camp Cope singer and enrolled nurse loves it, even if ‘nursing is the hardest job in the world’.
Known as Georgia Maq to her fans, she was riding high on the back of her Melbourne-based band’s 2019 headline tour of the US when COVID brought everything to a halt. The band’s self-titled debut album drew a national spotlight – and the first of many awards – to Camp Cope in 2016, and their Top 10 ARIA-charting follow-up How to Socialise & Make Friends had thrown them into the international spotlight two years later. Georgia and her bandmates Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and Sarah Thompson had embraced the chaos.
But to do so, Georgia had had to put her nursing career on hold, before it even began. She had graduating as an EN in 2015, just before the band took off, and hence hadn’t been able to find the time to do a graduate position. She was happy to follow her creative path wherever it took her, however. ‘And then the pandemic happened,’ she deadpans.
Georgia the grad
With touring temporarily out of the question, Camp Cope slowed their roll and Georgia was able to pick up where she left off in 2015. After five years as a working musician, returning to nursing was ‘scary and overwhelming’. But it was the right thing to do, she says. ‘I knew that it’s what I wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be on the frontlines of change, but with the band. With nursing, I’m literally on the frontlines and it just felt like this is where I’m meant to be.’
Initially, she started back doing COVID testing. Then she got her vaccination certificate and moved into administering vaccinations. From there, she finally transitioned into the long-delayed graduate position. ‘The graduate position is the most overwhelming, intense job in the whole world,’ she says. ‘You get five days of supernumerary, where you’re shadowing someone, and then you’re just thrown in the deep end with a full patient load.’
‘If you come at something with a negative attitude, you’re just going to get negativity all around you. When you come in with a positive attitude and kindness, I think it just it makes the job a lot easier.’
Despite this, she says she felt ‘pretty confident’ for the most part. And no matter how taxing the job gets, she still loves it. ‘Sometimes I’ll be at work, on the wards, and just be so overwhelmed with how much I love what I’m doing. That’s such a good feeling – it makes all the hard parts feel less hard.’
It helps that nursing is an industry dominated by women. Camp Cope is a band well known for its scorching feminist rallying cry, starkly epitomised in songs such as The Opener, in which Georgia tears strips off the misogynistic BS of an industry (music) that is still over-represented by men. But as a nurse, her colleagues are predominantly women. ‘It’s the best,’ she says. ‘I love being in a job where it’s just heaps of women. It’s really great.’
As she moves forward with her nursing career, Georgia is keen to work in theatre, or on the surgical ward. ‘I actually really like urology too,’ she says with a laugh. ‘Sometimes you have to do bladder wash outs, when there’s heaps of blood clots in it. It’s really cool!’ She is, unsurprisingly, ‘one hundred per cent’ the kind of person who enjoys squeezing zits and pimple popper videos on YouTube!
She may be planning out her future in nursing, but Georgia Maq’s music career isn’t over yet. Camp Cope recently released its third album, Running with the Hurricane, which was rehearsed and recorded in between shifts. This balancing act was tricky, but it’s one Georgia hopes to finetune as life shifts back to something closer to its pre-pandemic shape – especially because each half of her life helps the other.
‘It’s a blessing,’ she explains, ‘because both music and nursing are kind of a sanctuary. After I’ve been working quite a bit, whatever I do in music is extra special and extra important to me. And it also makes me really love and appreciate even more my job where I’m helping people.’
This love can be heard on Running with the Hurricane, which reveals a gentler and more hopeful – but no less fierce – sound from Camp Cope. ‘The only way out is up’, Georgia sings on the title track, and it’s an attitude she has tried to maintain in her nursing life, especially after the past couple of years. ‘If you come at something with a negative attitude, you’re just going to get negativity all around you,’ she says. ‘When you come in with a positive attitude and kindness, I think it just it makes the job a lot easier.’
Camp Cope’s Running with the Hurricane is out now. They play at The Forum Melbourne on Friday 13 May. Tickets on sale via Ticketek. As part of the Andrews Government’s Victorian Entertainment Program, you can claim back 25 per cent of your purchase (up to $125) when you spend $40 or more.