I'm glad to hear that I am not the only one who feels this way! The best thing to do is look for masters in a particular field and study with them. It's great to be idealistic and learn all kinds of theory, but at the end of the day we need results. I have found that studying with master clinicians is the way to go. Some of the clinicians I study see upwards of 60-70 patients per day. The herbal master I study with sees a new patient every 8 minutes!
Another inherent problem I see with TCM (and don't get me wrong, I still love TCM) is that it relies very heavily on what the patient tells you. This is just not reliable. What is burning pain to one, is dull to another, is sharp to another, feels tingly to another, etc. This is why I really study the pulse. The pulse doesn't lie and it's not subjective. If you really want to learn a great method of pulse, look up courses by Dr. Jimmy Chang. I started studying his pulse diagnosis about a year ago. Here is an example of a conversation I had with a patient today:
"Can I feel your pulse?" "Sure."
"Have you had pain in your ankles or knees lately?" "Yes"
"Have you felt a little to warm lately?" "Yes"
"You must get some palpitations and shortness of breath." "Yes"
"Do you get some painful or dark urination?" "Yes, it has been dark orange."
"You also have some nasal congestion correct?" "Yes."
It really is that accurate. This also makes herbal medicine much more simple. The pulse tells you what to do. There is no subjectivity involved. And I am definitely no expert at this, but I have talked with others who say that it really only took them a month or two to get good at this method. Honestly, you have probably felt a lot of these pulse already and just didn't know what to call them. For a long time I studied TCM pulse and memorized repeatedly trying to figure out what was going on and sometime it just didn't fit with what the books had. Jimmy's pulse method explains all that. I am sure there are other great pulse practices out there, but this is just the one I gravitated to. Plus, I really hate the idea that you should have to spend years mastering this art. It's really not that difficult.
Good luck in all you do!