The direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are the mainstay for stroke prophylaxis in nonvalvular atrial fibrillation and treatment of acute venous thrombosis. They are attractive alternatives to warfarin because of their efficacy, ease of prescription and safety profile. The emergency department has gained expertise in the management of DOAC bleeding complications, but has been slower to adopt prescription decisions. Emergency clinicians are in a unique position to identify patients who are prescribed DOACs and are at high risk of impending bleeding. This is a practical guide for the emergency clinician on how to prescribe DOACs, the red flags for DOAC patients in the emergency department and advances in the treatment of bleeding.