Admission, Children’s Unit


Deppe, Theodore




Theodore Deppe (1950–) was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. He received a BA in English from Earlham College, a BS in nursing from Berea College, and an MFA from Vermont College. Deppe spent two decades working as a registered nurse before taking up writing and teaching full time. He has received a Pushcart Prize and two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000, Deppe moved to Ireland, where he teaches in the University of Southern Maine’s MFA program. His poetry collections include Cape Clear (2002) and Orpheus on the Red Line (2009).

“Admission, Children’s Unit” appears in Deppe’s second book, The Wanderer King (1996). The poem explores a nurse's processing of an event when confronted with the parent of an abused child patient. What role do compassion and judgment play in service work? What does it mean when and if we begin to judge those we come across in our work?

Full Text*

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From The Wanderer King (Farmington, ME: Alice James Books).


Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Health and HealingLove and CompassionServing and Volunteering

Big Questions

Is health a private or public issue? Is it an individual or a social problem?Should we love the people we serve?What prevents us from being compassionate?Should we keep a distance from the people we serve?


Taking Action

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Why does the narrator think so much about smell?
  2. What is the boy being admitted for, and how does the narrator feel about it?
  3. How would you characterize the relationship between the boy and his mother?
  4. Why is it that the narrator would like to say “that all this happened when I first started/ to work as a nurse”?
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