A Walter Reed Army Medical Center nurse who was charged with fondling five female patients while they were semiconscious after surgery will face a general court-martial, an Army spokesman said yesterday.

Capt. Donald A. McFarland, 42, a night shift nurse at the 850-bed hospital, will be tried on six counts of indecent assault for allegedly fondling the women under his care, according to Walter Reed spokesman Peter Esker. The charges stem from six separate incidents that allegedly occurred from September 1983 to last August.

Based on the findings of a two-month investigation, the Army charged McFarland with five counts of indecent assault Aug. 20. Three additional charges were filed against him in September after two former hospital patients made similar accusations.

Two of the latter charges were dropped for lack of evidence following a military hearing that resembled a grand jury hearing, but the hearing recommended that McFarland face a general court-martial on the other six offenses.

Walter Reed commander Lewis Mologne, who could have altered the charges against McFarland, sent the Article 32 recommendation to the Military District of Washington where McFarland will be tried.

If convicted, McFarland, who has served at the hospital since June 1980, could face up to 30 years in prison at hard labor.