Standard vs. Alternative Vent Modes: What’s the Difference?

Part of AACN Critical Care Webinar Series

Presenter(s): John Gallagher, DNP, RN, CCNS, CCRN-K, TCRN, CHSE, RRT, FCCM

Added to Collection

Webinar Summary

Standard modes of ventilation remain popular among critical care practitioners, but they have many limitations. The primary limitation of standard modes is the inability to address changes in patient ventilation needs over time. The classic volume/pressure control modes of standard ventilators deliver only set parameters, which may not provide optimal ventilation during improvement or deterioration. Alternative modes of ventilation offer the ability to match patient needs through incorporated feedback systems. These newer modes detect changes in lung parameters and adjust based on those changes. The use of ventilator physics by these newer alternative ventilation modes assists in weaning patients from mechanical ventilation, improves ventilator synchrony, decreases ventilation days and improves patient safety. This course describes the differences between standard and alternative modes of ventilation and the uses and limitations of both modalities.


  • Describe the differences between volume-targeted and pressure-targeted ventilation modes.
  • Describe the different alternative ventilation modes and their role in lung protection, recruitment and ventilator liberation.
  • Identify limitations in the application of alternative ventilation modes.




John Gallagher is the trauma program manager and a clinical nurse specialist for the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Emergency Surgery at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Philadelphia. He earned a DNP from the University of Pittsburgh and an MSN at LaSalle University in Philadelphia. He has practiced in a variety of clinical settings including the trauma resuscitation unit and surgical ICU, emergency department and pulmonary step-down units as both a staff nurse and clinical nurse specialist. Additionally, Gallagher is a registered respiratory therapist and has served as a paramedic. He is a member of AACN’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter, the Society of Critical Care Medicine Nursing Section and the Society of Trauma Nurses. His areas of clinical expertise include ARDS, mechanical ventilation and endpoints of resuscitation.

Continuing Education Disclosure Statement

Successful Completion

Learners must attend/view/read the entire activity and complete the associated evaluation to be awarded the contact hours or CERP. No partial credit will be awarded.


This activity has been reviewed by the Nurse Planner. It has been determined that the material presented here shows no bias. No conflicts of interest have been identified for any individual with the ability to influence the content of this activity. Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing education only and does not imply AACN or ANCC approval or endorsement of any commercial products discussed or displayed in conjunction with this educational activity.


The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is accredited as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC's) Commission on Accreditation, ANCC Provider Number 0012. AACN has been approved as a provider of continuing education in nursing by the California State Board of Nursing (CBRN), California Provider number CEP 1036. This activity is approved for 1.00 contact hours.

AACN programming meets the standards for most states that require mandatory continuing education contact hours for license and/or certification renewal. AACN recommends consulting with your state board of nursing or credentialing organization before submitting CE to fulfill continuing education requirements.

Refund Policy

Continuing Education Activities are nonrefundable.