Health & Wellness

Aggie Healthcare Hero: Jessica (Parenti) Otte, Class of 2006

When Jessica (Parenti) Otte was a student-athlete at Utah State, she learned the value of being part of a team.
Otte was a four-year letterwinner on Utah State's gymnastics team (2003, 2005-07), helping the Aggies win their first-ever Western Gymnastics Conference Championship as a redshirt sophomore during the 2005 campaign.
Arguably one of the best gymnasts in the history of Utah State, Otte was a three-time all-conference honoree and still holds a share of the school record on vault with a 9.950, set in 2005. She helped the Aggies advance to the NCAA Regional Championships in 2005 and 2007, while she competed at regionals as an individual in 2006.
Originally born in Adelaide, Australia, Otte, who is married to former Utah State golfer Preston Otte, earned a bachelor's degree in exercise science in 2006. She then went on to earn a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Arizona.
As the nation battles COVID-19, many essential employees and health care providers are going above and beyond every day, including Otte, who is helping fight the pandemic as a post-anesthesia care unit registered nurse at the Northwest Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.
In honor of our former student-athletes who are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus around the world, Utah State Athletics has created the Q&A series: Aggie Healthcare Heroes. If you are a former USU student-athlete and are on the frontlines of the pandemic, please contact Wade Denniston at
USU: First off, how are you doing, and how are your family and friends doing?
Otte: We are doing well, thank you. My family and I have remained healthy and safe during this time. We have embraced our stay-at-home orders and the slower pace has been a welcomed change. My children are now getting used to "Mom-School," but it has been a definite adjustment for them. My husband, Preston, has remained busy at work thanks to our governor allowing golf throughout this pandemic. They have made significant adjustments on the golf course, but continued employment has been a great relief.
USU: What types of precautions are you taking in the wake of COVID-19?
Otte: We have taken all government-ordered precautions very seriously at home. As we have watched parts of the world and nation suffer greatly, we have not taken it lightly. We have limited leaving our home to only essential grocery trips, our children have not left our home or car, and every day we wipe our high-traffic surfaces. I have been very particular on my routine when I return home from work. All work clothing is removed in the garage, put in the washer and I get showered immediately. On a positive note, our kids' hand-washing skills have greatly improved.
USU: What has the past month or so been like for you at work?
Otte: Work has been unique to say the least. Prior to COVID-19, our surgery center was very busy Monday through Friday with our five operating rooms and three GI rooms. As more and more information came our way, our safety processes changed daily trying to follow the guidelines especially with patients and airways. When our state stopped elective surgeries, our procedures all but halted. We have been open only Tuesday and Thursday for the past month. We implemented a no-visitor policy, which was the biggest change for our patients. They are used to having a support person or two, maybe even more than that in our waiting room, but for safety and limiting exposure they have to come alone. Our discharge instructions are given over the phone and family comes curbside to pick up their loved one. On the medical side we made changes in the operating rooms allowing more time for patients to wake up in the OR where air can be "cleared." This has ensured that they come to the recovery room without the need for airway support.
With our shifts being shortened, many of my coworkers and I floated to the main hospital to assist with COVID screenings. I joked that I was the gatekeeper as employees and potential patients had to pass through me. We became the first check point for any patient with COVID-like symptoms and triage their next step. Anyone with COVID symptoms was then evaluated by our ER charge nurse and brought directly to a room. The no-visitor policy has been so important for safety and yet, so humbling. Recently, a husband asked that I bring some supplies to his wife. You could see in his eyes he was having a hard time. I asked if he was doing okay, to then have him break down in tears. He shared that his wife had been in ICU on a ventilator for two weeks and that she was going to make it, but he just wanted to see her. The nurse/mom/human in me wanted so much to be able to hug this man, but I didn't. Our way of patient care has changed and I feel this might be the new normal for some time.
USU: How did your journey to becoming an RN begin?
Otte: I had been interested in healthcare for as long as I remember. It took some time shadowing healthcare professionals while at USU for me to decide on nursing. I really liked that a career in nursing could have so many options within it. After my graduation from Utah State, I attended an Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing Program at the University of Arizona. I am in my 11th year of nursing and eighth year as pre-op and PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit) RN. 
USU: How did your student-athlete experience at Utah State prepare you for your role in the medical profession?

Otte: It was such a privilege to be a student-athlete and a member of the Utah State gymnastics team. I learned to be a part of something bigger than myself, to do my best for the team, and to leave it all on the floor. I learned to be a part of a team, one of the best teams. I am now a part of the healthcare team. Positive patient outcomes depend on each member of the team, so I do my best for my patients. 
USU: What is a word of advice for people during this pandemic?
Otte: I do feel that we should recognize the importance of science and guidance from our healthcare professionals. As the nation has gone through so many changes, challenges and losses, the stress and strain can seem unending. My advice is to take it one day at a time and from the words of Jeffrey R. Holland, "Believe in good things to come."
USU: What part of your job is helping the fight against COVID-19?
Otte: We have joined with the nation as we fight the spread of COVID-19. All of the changes we have seen this last month within our surgery department attest to this. Through our preparations, precautions and endless mask wearing, we are doing our part.
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