Neonatal nurses need confidence as well as skill. Some infants are very tiny and very fragile.
Neonatal nursing units require experienced, adept nurses. However, they utilize some new grads as well. Although one can achieve RN licensure with an associate's or bachelor's degree, the BSN can be better preparation for a neonatal intensive care unit. Some premier hospitals offer residencies to new graduates. They often require the BSN.
These residencies can be competitive in other ways. They may value high GPA, prior experience working with a similar age group, and other honors or areas of service. Whether or not NICU residency is offered at a particular time may depend on the needs of the facility. Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, MultiCare Health System, and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital- Stanford are among those that offer an NICU residency at least some of the time.
Sometimes talented students even get some experience in before graduation. Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, for example, has a pediatric externship program that could potentially put a student in the NICU (http://www.chkd.org/Careers/Nursing-at-CHKD/Student-Nurse-Externships/).