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Sexual Harassment in Healthcare: Virginia Doctor Inappropriately Touches Nurse

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by Melissa Mills Melissa Mills, BSN (Member) Writer Innovator Verified

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Health and Wellness Writing, Leadership.

9 Followers; 112 Articles; 22,152 Visitors; 271 Posts

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How would you react if a physician or other male coworker brushed against you inappropriately? For one Virginia nurse, she knows exactly how she would react because it happened to her. Discover sexual assault statistics and the details of this case.

Sexual Harassment in Healthcare: Virginia Doctor Inappropriately Touches Nurse

The #MeToo movement has empowered many targets of sexual harassment to address their harassers and report these situations to their employers and the authorities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received more than 13,000 workplace sexual harassment complaints in 2018. They said that 15.9% of the charges were filed by male targets, which means that women remain the number one recipients of sexual harassment. More than $56 million was awarded to victims of sexual harassment through settlements before the cases ever went to trial.

These statistics are appalling and should make each of us consider ways to keep ourselves and coworkers safe. What might be even more shocking than these statistics are stories where the perpetrator gets away with nothing more than a slap on the hand, like Dr. Moja, a physician in Virginia. Here is more about his story. 

Doctor with Multiple Allegations

WTVR, Channel 6 shared the story of one nurse who remembers a conversation at a hospital elevator with Dr. Moja. The nurse, who has requested to remain anonymous, told reporter Melissa Hipolit, “Dr. Moja was talking to me, discussing some things, he had his hand on my shoulder. As he was removing his hand, he deliberately, with intent, came down across my breast -- slowly with intent.”

The nurse described how she was shocked by his actions and waited for the physician to apologize or walk away. However, he didn’t. In fact, the nurse told the reporter, “He made the comment he just wanted to know if they were real or fake.” She remembered being in shock at first and then switching over to anger about the violation.

She reported the incident to the hospital’s HR department that night but didn’t hear back from them for a few days. She reminisced that Dr. Moja tried to pull her off to the side to talk to her a few times after the incident, but she never allowed herself to be in that situation. She then spoke to the hospital’s director of nursing, who helped her to call the police department that same day.

After Dr. Moja was charged with sexual battery, other women started discussing similar behaviors displayed by the doctor. He’s accused of asking one employee if she had ropes and handcuffs. He was also involved in similar situations at previous employers. All of this information was submitted to the Virginia Board of Medicine who convened to review it and decide the fate of Moja’s license to practice medicine. 

The Results

The board stated that they were concerned by “Dr. Moja’s lengthy history of inappropriate actions and comments across multiple work settings with multiple professional workers, which span many years,” but they decided not to suspend his license. Dr. Moja was reprimanded and placed on probation indefinitely.

Dr. Moja is still licensed to practice medicine in Virginia. His attorney told WTVR that they are appealing the disciplinary action given by the board and the conviction of the sexual battery charge. 

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Inappropriate sexual advances in the workplace aren’t new. According to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, even Florence Nightingale had to control comments made by male physicians and surgeons in the 1800s. Since that time, there have been many cases of sexual harassment in just about every industry. With the powerful #MeToo Movement, professional organizations in healthcare have taken a stance on sexual harassment to prevent it from happening.

The EEOC defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Victims can be of any sex, and so can the harasser. However, there are a few factors that increase the risk of sexual harassment that might make it more likely to happen in healthcare settings:

Isolated Victim

Any workers who find themselves in secluded spaces tend to be at a higher than average risk of sexual harassment. Isolation can leave the target feeling alone since there may not be witnesses to the harassment. If you work in a small office, facility, or practice and find yourself alone with another worker, you could be at risk. 

Male-Dominated Work

Women who work in male-dominated professions are at a higher than average risk of being a victim of sexual harassment. Nursing is female-dominated as a profession. However, medicine is not. Female nurses in male-dominated practices are one area of healthcare that could be a problem. 

Power Disparities

Workplaces with unequal power between workers can set up an environment where sexual harassment may happen. Add in a possible harasser who is well-recognized or high-earning and the power imbalance and risk of harassment increases. Some people in positions of power feel that they don’t need to comply with laws and other rules and might even think they won’t be reprimanded for inappropriate actions.

Changing the Trajectory of Sexual Harassment

If you’ve ever been the victim of sexual harassment, you understand the level of violation that comes with the act. Victims don’t have to sit back and tolerate this type of abuse. If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed at work, you have rights. You can call the Equal Rights Advocates ' toll-free Advice and Counseling ling at 800-839-4372. You should also speak to your supervisor or human resources department. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, you can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.

We Want Your Opinions

How do you feel about Dr. Moja’s actions? Should he be allowed to continue to practice medicine? If you’ve been the target of sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace and are willing to share your story, we’d love to hear it. Tell us how you felt and what you did about it.

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

9 Followers; 112 Articles; 22,152 Visitors; 271 Posts

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Hoosier_RN has 20 years experience as a MSN and specializes in LTC, home health, hospice, ICU, ER, dialysis.

3 Followers; 2,748 Visitors; 1,366 Posts

I feel like Drs have been getting away with this for years, and will continue to because they are income generators, and as far as the board is concerned, they carry a certain amount of prestige.  I also feel that unless it was blatant rape, it would probably be swept under the rug, and may be so even then.

Facilities see nurses as dispensable, unless of course, you are related to someone, or too many multiple victims appear with the story that generate enough negative publicity.  Even patients are sometimes doubted, because well, "he is a Dr"!

It's a shame that this goes on in healthcare, but it's a sad truth that many of us have seen more than once. And believe me, once is enough!

Drs can do almost anything and their board ignores, the Dr moves on to other places and starts again with no worries...a nurse is ostrasized, license checked and not able to issue in another state.  Crazy!

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KCMnurse has 33 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN.

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The fact that Dr. Moja is still licensed speaks volumes. I guess he didn't harass enough nurses or is the Board waiting for him to rape someone before they take any real action.🤷‍♀️

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Orca has 24 years experience as a ADN, ASN, RN and specializes in Corrections, psychiatry, rehab, LTC.

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At least in this case the employer was supportive, which doesn't always happen in hospitals. As Hoosier said, doctors generate income, and hospitals are often reluctant to address issues with them.

The fact that the doctor was convicted of sexual battery and he still has a license to practice blows me away. A completely irresponsible decision by the licensing board, which is supposed to protect the public.

Edited by Orca

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Dr Moja should not be allowed to practice anymore. Period. No question. Even after the first incident he should have been able to practice anymore. What was described here is too far and unacceptable.

HOWEVER, I do believe some people take “sexual harassment” too far to translate into “no physical contact” whatsoever. I remember one night I was frustrated with what was happening with my patient and not getting anywhere with the dr about treating his condition. A female nurse came up to me and gave me a hug. I thought nothing of it. I just thought it was a friendly gesture to help calm me down. 

About an hour later she came up to me and apologized I asked for what? She told me she should not have hugged me because of sexual harassment laws and such.

i was more offended that she would think I would have taken this friendly gesture that way. There was nothing sexual or harassing about it.

One way to avoid this is to ask if it is appropriate first. One time something happened to my patient and I was really visibly upset at what happened. Another nurse talked to me and asked me “are you s hugger?” I said yes and she helped calm me down by giving me one.

We work in a very stressful and sometimes very emotional environment. I had a cancer patient initiate giving me s Hug once because I sat and talked to her for 45 minutes in the middle of rounding and med passes- she was newly diagnosed with a terminal cancer and gave her 6 months. She initiated the contact and thought nothing of it.

People also say don’t bring religion to the workplace either- but I have had patients ask me, “Can you pray with me?” - we need to honor those requests to give patients a sense of peace- and hope.

Things have become so uptight in our society right now. What Dr. Moja did, though, crossed the line and must face the consequences of thst.

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HarleyvQuinn has 10 years experience as a BSN.

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BON would have revoked license to practice permanently. 

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Jory has 10 years experience as a MSN, APRN, CNM.

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I would have grabbed his crotch hard enough to bring him to his knees and said, "You know...just wanted to know if this was real or fake".  

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Hoosier_RN has 20 years experience as a MSN and specializes in LTC, home health, hospice, ICU, ER, dialysis.

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On 6/26/2019 at 6:46 AM, Jory said:

I would have grabbed his crotch hard enough to bring him to his knees and said, "You know...just wanted to know if this was real or fake".  

I love it!

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On 6/25/2019 at 12:04 PM, KCMnurse said:

The fact that Dr. Moja is still licensed speaks volumes. I guess he didn't harass enough nurses or is the Board waiting for him to rape someone before they take any real action.🤷‍♀️

Probably waiting for him to assault the daughter of a board member.

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Moja went too far. 

I have been propositioned, like in, "would you like to go back to the room and I can show you",,  just said, 'No thanks".  I thought it was kind of funny at the time because I was soooooo not interested.  That however was years ago, today it is a different time and it really is not acceptable, should not have ever been really.

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We currently have this occurring in our department. A male nurse groped a female co worker. He has made inappropriate comments and actually touched other people in the office and only one of the nurses made a formal complaint. Instead of being punished, The male nurse has been giving a private office with no supervision. It is really quite upsetting and sends a clear cut message to both the predator and the women in our office.  It makes me so angry. 

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8 hours ago, angiet90 said:

We currently have this occurring in our department. A male nurse groped a female co worker. He has made inappropriate comments and actually touched other people in the office and only one of the nurses made a formal complaint. Instead of being punished, The male nurse has been giving a private office with no supervision. It is really quite upsetting and sends a clear cut message to both the predator and the women in our office.  It makes me so angry. 

They are rewarding bad behavior, just the opposite of what they should be doing.  There needs to be another formal complaint, gang up on them.  Stick together.

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