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HR professional awarded for advocacy efforts

The three finalists for the Western Colorado Human Resource Association Professional of the Year were, from left: Trace Hillman of S.M. Stoller, Kelly Murphy of Family Health West and Becky Ripper of High Country Energy and McCurter Land Co. Murphy, HR director at Family Health West won the award. (Western Colorado Human Resource Association photo courtesy Jean Ann Kochevar)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Kelly Murphy considers herself an advocate for the employees who work for Family Health West as well as the Fruita health care organization.

But that’s not necessarily a difficult balancing act for the director of human resources for Family Health West. “It’s very, very easy with the company I work with,” Murphy said.

The organization has developed a culture in which employees trust leaders and leaders listen to employee and address their concerns, she said.

Over the course of a lengthy career at Family Health West, Murphy has developed a reputation as an HR professional who serves the interests of employees and the employer even as she assures compliance with state and federal employment laws and copes with the demands of a rapidly growing organization and staff.

It’s an effort that earned Murphy recognition as the Western Colorado Human Resource Association Professional of the Year for 2013.

Murphy was among three finalists for the annual award bestowed by the WCHRA, a Grand Junction-based chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.  The other finalists were Trace Hillman of S.M. Stoller and Becky Ripper of High Country Energy and McCurter Land Co.

Nominees were evaluated on the basis of their performance in the HR field as well as their efforts at promoting the HR profession and contributions to the community.

Murphy has worked at Family Health West for 23 years, starting out as an administrative assistant who handled a wide variety of duties. She’s served as HR director for more than five years after bring groomed for the role by her predecessor. “I love HR. I could not imagine a better field,” she said.

Over the past two decades, Murphy has watched Family Health West evolve from a nursing home and small hospital to an organization that in 2009 opened a new hospital and now operates skilled and assisted care living facilities as well as a growing number of outpatient care centers.

Over the past four years alone, the staff has grown from 350 to 500, Murphy said.

Lori Henderson, chief nursing officer and vice president of clinical services at Family Health West, said Murphy has grown into her position and its responsibilities. “She just does everything right.”

Henderson said Murphy has been especially diligent in keeping up with state and federal employment laws to assure Family Health West complies with those laws.

It’s a task that’s kept her busy, Murphy said. “You have to keep on top of all the compliance issues. It definitely gives you an opportunity not to be bored.”

The most rewarding aspect of her job, though, is helping people, Murphy said, whether it’s resolving a problem or offering resources to help employees develop their abilities.

As for her balancing act in advocating for employees and Family Health West, Murphy said she’s grateful that part is easy. “I’m very fortunate to work where I work.”

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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