City male nurses still wearing the pants

Copenhagen's female RN's are sick of wearing starchy white dresses, and have demanded the right to wear clinical white trousers just like men. Despite an official ruling in their favour, female nurses won't have the right to wear pants for another three a

Mari Holen is sick and tired of dresses. Holen, a nurse at Copenhagen's Bispebjerg Hospital, is required to report for work in standard dress uniform every day - even though the skirt is drafty and impractical. Mari and her female colleagues are currently on a waiting list for a pair of regulation white pants, despite the fact that male nurses at the hospital are automatically given hospital-issue scrub pants and shirts with no wait.

"Women today should not be forced to wear dresses - especially not at work. Being a nurse involves physical labour, and it's uncomfortable to work in a skirt," said Holen.

Ever since Holen started working at Bisbebjerg Hospital in February of this year, she's been on a waitlist for a two-piece pants uniform. After months passed with no news on the uniform front, Holen filed a private complaint with the National Gender Equality Appeals Board. The board has finally issued a ruling in the case, declaring it unlawful sexual discrimination for Bispebjerg Hospital to provide two-piece work uniforms for male employees, but not for women.

The same problem has been reported at Copenhagen's Hvidovre and Amager Hospitals. Although plans are already underway at the Capital City Hospital Alliance (HS) to provide more uniforms, it will take another three and a half years before HS has ordered enough pants to outfit the city's female nurses.

Speaking with daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Mari Holen explained the rigours of going to work barelegged during the winter, and said she found the nurse's dress uncomfortably revealing. Holen has since ordered a tunic that's actually a size too large, but covers her knees.

Mari's colleague, Maja Hjort, has waited more than a year for a pair of pants. When Jyllands-Posten visited Bispebjerg Hospital's Geriatric Ward one month ago, Maja Hjort had resorted to wearing her own tights under the nurse's tunic in the interests of comfort and modesty.

"Whenever we have to bend down to help a patient, people can see all the way up our skirts. It's highly unpleasant," said Hjort.

Bispebjerg Hospital director Søren Rohde said he could understand why female nurses were tired of dresses, and admitted that they were outmoded. Jyllands-Posten asked Rohde to explain the yearlong wait for custom-made trousers.

"It's been customary until now for male nurses to wear male clothes, and for female nurses to wear feminine apparel. So we simply haven't had any two-piece uniforms for female nurses on hand," said Rohde, adding:

"I readily admit that it's taken a while. First there was a discussion about fabric. Then we assembled a working group, which worked without success for an entire year to agree on a design. We need 60,000 uniforms for the entire HS region, and a contract like that has go through EU bidding. So it's delayed matters somewhat," said Rohde.

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